NAIROBI – Kenyan presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta opened an early lead as the east African nation counted ballots today in an election that brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.
The deputy prime minister, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity linked to the last election, was ahead of Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
But Kenyatta could still be overhauled as the count goes on in a vote Kenyans hope will restore their nation’s image as one of Africa’s most stable democracies after the bloodshed five years ago.
Although voting passed off broadly peacefully with a big turnout, the real test will be whether the candidates and their backers accept the result, after the disputed 2007 vote touched off ethnic blood-letting that killed more than 1,200 people.
“Nobody should celebrate, nobody should complain,” election commission chairman Isaac Hassan told journalists, saying work was going on to resolve glitches and speed up the count. “We therefore continue to appeal for patience from the public.”
The commission said provisional results may not be tallied until tomorrow, meaning an official declaration will not come until then or later.
Kenyatta’s lead has held overnight but more than 60 per cent of polling stations have yet to report. Odinga’s camp said counting in their strongholds had not been completed yet and a debate over the fate of a sizeable number of rejected votes could help shift the balance.
The United States and Western donors have watched the vote closely, concerned about the stability of a nation seen as a regional ally in the fight against militant Islam.
They also worry about what to do if Kenyatta wins, because of the charges of crimes against humanity he faces at the International Criminal Court related to the violence five years ago.
With memories still fresh about the lethal mayhem after the last election and its dire impact on the economy, many Kenyans are determined not to see a repeat and, like their candidates, have pledged to accept the outcome. (Reuters)