NAIROBI, Kenya ( Associated Press) — Kenya’s peaceful presidential election faced a brief hiatus on Saturday at the national counting center amid tensions over tough results.
Veteran opposition leader and an agent for candidate Raila Odinga announced from the stage that the complex was a “crime site” before peace was restored. The agent, Saitabao Ole Kanchori, provided no evidence, yet another example of unverified allegations by the two favored camps as the country awaits official results.
The Election Commission has seven days from Tuesday’s election to declare the results. Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati reiterated on Saturday that the process was too slow, and asked the commission to leave non-essential staff following the process at the center.
Police were present at the spot on Sunday morning as well.
In a statement, local human rights groups and professional organizations called on candidates and supporters to exercise restraint, saying “we should all avoid escalating tensions that can easily lead to violence.”
The race between Odinga and Vice President William Ruto remained tight as the election commission physically verified more than 46,000 electronically submitted results from across the country.
Turnout in these elections fell sharply to 65%, with some Kenyans familiar with candidates expressing exhaustion and dismay at economic problems such as widespread corruption and rising prices. Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta crossed the ethnic divide by supporting Odinga, which has marked the country’s politics for years. The president and his number two, Ruto, had parted ways years ago.
Although there has been violence in past elections, civil society observers, police, religious leaders and others say they have been peaceful.
According to spokesman Ned Price, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the president on the phone on Saturday, “as the countdown to the August 9 election in Kenya continues, urging peace and patience.”
In western Kenya, some said they were tired of waiting for the results, but insisted they were tired of the past shock as well.
“Here we don’t want any violence,” said 40-year-old Ezekiel Kibet, who said he would accept the consequences if the process was transparent. “We think about how our kids will go back to school.”
“Let whoever wins rule us,” said 63-year-old Daniel Arap Chepakwany. “A lot of people think we’ll come out with guns, but we’re not doing that.”
An Associated Press reporter in Kingwall contributed to this report.