Women prepare to board a Kenyan police truck as they flee
the Miritini neighbourhood during night clashes, near the
port city of Mombasa, before polling stations opened for
the country's general election. REUTERS/Peter Imbote
At least 15 people have been killed in attacks by
machete-wielding gangs as millions of Kenyans vote in the first
presidential election since a disputed 2007 poll unleashed
weeks of tribal bloodshed.
Voting in the tight contest passed off peacefully across most
of the East African nation, although many of its 14.3 million
voters were caught in long queues. Election officials said
there was a high turnout without giving figures.
Officials and candidates have made impassioned appeals to
avoid a repeat of the tribal rampages that erupted five years
ago when disputes over the poll result fuelled clashes
between tribal loyalists of rival candidates.
More than 1,200 people were killed, shattering Kenya's
reputation as one of Africa's most stable democracies and
bringing its economy, sub-Saharan Africa's fourth-largest, to
Just hours before voting began, at least nine security
officers in the restive coastal region were hacked to death
in two attacks, and six attackers were killed, regional
police chief Aggrey Adoli said.
Senior police officers blamed the attacks on a separatist
movement, suggesting different motives to those that caused
the post-2007 vote ethnic killings that could limit their
As in 2007, the race has come down to a high-stakes duel
between two candidates, this time between Deputy Prime
Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the
loser in 2007 to outgoing President Mwai Kibaki. Both
contenders will depend heavily on votes from their tribes.
The United States and Western donors are worried about the
stability of a nation that is an ally in the fight against
militant Islam in the region.
They are also concerned about how to respond to a victory by
Kenyatta, who faces charges by the International Criminal
Court of orchestrating violence five years ago.
"If elected, we will be able to discharge our duties," said
Kenyatta's running mate, William Ruto who also faces charges
of crimes against humanity.
"We shall cooperate with the court with a final intention of
clearing our names."
Initial provisional results for the presidential race began
trickling in moments after polls closed at 5pm (local time),
but it was too early to predict an outcome.
Many polling stations will close later because their opening
was delayed and some still had long queues. The election
commission has seven days to announce the official outcome.
Polls suggest there could be a run-off, provisionally set for
The European Union observer mission said turnout was high
even at the coast where the attacks took place.
"The atmosphere observed is mostly calm," Alojz Peterle,
chief of EU Observer Mission and former Slovenian prime
minister, told reporters at a polling station in central
"People still queue peacefully and patiently. We hope that
this peaceful and patience atmosphere will last until the end
of the procedure even if it takes longer than expected."
One of the attacks on Monday took place on the outskirts of
Mombasa and another in Kilifi about 50 km (80 miles) to the
north. Senior police officers blamed them on a separatist
movement, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), which wanted
the national vote scrapped and a referendum on secession
At the Kilifi site, Reuters footage showed a piece of paper
on the ground with the words: "MRC. Coast is not Kenya. We
don't want elections. We want our own country."
But the group's spokesman denied responsibility and said it
only sought change by peaceful means.
Even before the violence, many Kenyans were wary, notably in
hotspots last time. Some shopkeepers ran down stocks and some
people in mixed tribal areas returned to their homelands. But
broadly the vote passed off smoothly with most complaints
related to the long wait or delayed opening of polling
"Kenya is greater than any of us. Let the will of the people
prevail to avert violence," said accountant George Omondi,
33, in Kisumu, a flashpoint city last time when violence
flared after the 2007 result. "We have learnt from the past
and should any of the contenders lose, they should accept the
Kenya's neighbours have been watching nervously, after their
economies felt the shockwaves when violence five years ago
shut down trade routes running through east Africa's biggest
Some landlocked states have stockpiled fuel and other
Adding to tension, the al Shabaab Islamist militant group
battling Kenyan peacekeeping troops in Somalia, urged Muslims
to boycott the vote in Kenya and wage jihad against its
In Garissa, a largely Muslim town with a significant ethnic
Somali population, two civilians were shot dead late on
A bomb blast in the Mandera area near the border wounded
Officials did not say who were behind the incidents.
Voters were undeterred. In the early hours before voting,
some Kenyans blew whistles and trumpet-like "vuvuzelas" to
wake up voters, and queues formed hours before polls opened
"Our future is uncertain but we long for peace and victory is
on our side this time round," said Odinga supporter
32-year-old Eunice Auma in Kisumu, where violence flared
"However, should our candidate (Odinga) fail to clinch
victory. I'm afraid violence will erupt," she said.
Kibaki, barred from seeking a third five-year term, made what
he described as a "passionate plea" for a peaceful vote.
All the candidates have vowed to accept the result.
Although the two leaders are well ahead of the other six
contenders, polls suggest they will struggle to secure an
outright win, which could make for a tense run-off. A narrow
first-round victory for either could spark legal challenges.
To try to prevent a repeat of the contested outcome that
sparked the violence after the December 2007 vote, a new,
broadly respected election commission is using more
technology to prevent fraud, speed up counting and increase
To build confidence, Kenya has passed a new constitution
since 2007, police chiefs have deployed extra forces to
maintain security and there is a more independent judiciary
which commands greater respect.
Officials have appealed to candidates to raise any challenges
in the courts and not on the streets.
Even so, Odinga, 68, has lifted a warning flag, telling
Reuters two days before the vote that the commission had by
"design or omission" failed to register all voters in his
strongholds, a charge the commission denies.
Alongside the presidential race, there are hotly contested
elections for senators, county governors, members of
parliament, women representatives in county assemblies and