kibaki.jpgCounting of votes began in earnest last evening with early results showing a close battle between President Kibaki and his main challenger, ODM’s Raila Odinga.

 

Earlier in the day, millions of Kenyans cast their ballots in Thursday’s General Election, which is expected to record the highest voter turnout in Kenya’s history.

 

Some voters queued from as early as 4 am and waited patiently until the official opening of polling centres. Electoral Commission vice-chairman Kihara Muttu said the voter turnout “will be higher than ever before”.

 

 

Vote counting had began by 6pm at stations where polling started on time and closed at 5pm. Some polling stations had opened shortly after 6am, while others delayed after ECK officials in some constituencies detected mix-ups in voter registers and other election materials, including ballot boxes.

 

 

The ECK ordered the extension of voting hours in the polling stations which opened late to make up for lost time.

 

However, the commission put off elections in 15 civic wards across the country due to missing names of some candidates on the ballot papers or due to a mix-up of party symbols.

 

 

Though voting went on peacefully, three people died in separate incidents, while a riot broke out in Mumias Town, with an attack on a building following rumours that ballot papers had been hidden there. And in Rongo, a man was stoned to death in what was believed to be a revenge attack over the killing of a campaign agent a week ago.

 

 

In Nairobi, an ODM agent was shot dead in Lang’ata constituency in a suspected carjacking attempt.

 

And in Kisumu Rural constituency, six people were arrested following the death of a PNU agent on Thursday.

 

The agent’s colleague said the man was pushed from a moving vehicle, but the suspects said he died while trying to jump off.

 

In Mandera Town, a voter collapsed and died at Bulahim Mpya polling station at 3 pm.

 

Mandera district commissioner Naftali Mugasia said the victim, a brother of one of the civic candidates, died after PNU and ODM supporters were involved in a scuffle.

 

 

The previous day, a presiding officer in Mandera Central constituency died in a road accident while transporting voting materials. The accident occurred on the Elwak-Wajir road.

 

Resolve hiccups

 

 

Earlier, the ECK moved fast to resolve some of the initial hiccups experienced earlier in the day, where some ballot papers had been flown to the wrong constituencies.

It also resolved cases involving missing names in some registers.

 

ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu had to rush to Lang’ata constituency of ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga to resolve the issue of registers where names starting with A, R and O were alleged to have been missing.

 

He made the trip after Mr Odinga protested at the ECK headquarters at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

 

 

And some ballot papers meant for Changamwe constituency were found in Kajiado North, while others meant for Bura ended up in Budalang’i. Others destined for Eldoret North were found in Naivasha, while others for Kipipiri were found in

 

Ganze. Another batch destined for Gatanga was found in Kitutu Chache. ECK hired helicopters to fly the papers to the affected constituencies.

 

 

Earlier reports countrywide indicated a turnout of over 60 per cent of the 14.2 million registered voters.

 

A high turnout was also reported in remote areas like

 

Mandera, Marsabit and Wajir districts in North Eastern Province.

 

President Kibaki, who is seeking re-election on a PNU ticket, and the ODM Kenya presidential candidate, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, were among the first voters in Othaya and Mwingi North constituencies, respectively. Mr Odinga voted later after returning from the KICC.

 

 

 

And names of at least five civic candidates were missing on the ballot papers in different wards, mainly from Nairobi, compelling the ECK to postpone elections in those wards. At least 15 wards were affected.

 

 

In Mandera, the presiding officer in Mandera Central constituency died in on Wednesday while transporting voting materials. The ECK replaced him in time to enable voting to go on.

 

 

Matatus were few on the roads for the better part of the day and most businesses were closed in various towns as their owners went to vote.

 

And in Tigania, Office of the President assistant minister Peter Munya and his aides were injured in election related chaos that left his car reduced to a shell at Thangatha polling station on the Tigania/Tharaka boundary.

 

 

The assistant minister’s bodyguard fired in the air to disperse a crowd that had started stoning Mr Munya’s vehicle. The outgoing Tigania East MP was said to have been engaged in an argument with polling agents earlier.

 

The station at the centre of a boundary dispute is shared by

 

Tharaka and Tigania constituencies.

 

Meru North police commander Morris Kiplagat said Mr Munya and his aides fled on foot, abandoning their vehicle which was then burnt down. Voting had to be suspended after the 2.30pm incident.

 

 

Meru regional Red Cross co-coordinator Gitonga Mugambi said tension was still high with people demanding a repeat of the poll.

 

Observers from several NGOs issued a preliminary report alleging vote buying by some agents of candidates in Tigania East constituency, Igembe South and Igembe North and Mathira, while there were no ballot papers in sections of Kuresoi constituency.

Source: Daily Nation, Dec 28, 2007

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