Kenyan Voting Protests Turn Violent in Some Areas
In Kisumu, Raila Odinga‘s stronghold, news of his defeat in the presidential election of Kenya began to spread on Monday. Furious supporters poured onto the streets, throwing rocks and accusing the poll of being rigged while police used tear gas to disperse them.
Young fans of the 77-year-old, who affectionately call to him as “Baba” or “father” in Swahili, told AFP they were incensed to see Odinga lose his fifth attempt at becoming president of Kenya.
Veteran opposition politician Odinga, who is now supported by the ruling party, hasn’t made a public statement since the results were made public, although he has accused his rivals of defrauding him of the presidency in the years 2007, 2013, and 2017.
Particularly the 2007 elections, which many independent observers also believed to be seriously rigged, left a long shadow over Kenyan politics and sparked a surge of intertribal violence that claimed more than 1,100 lives.
As Kisumu’s sun set, a sizable crowd of protesters gathered on a roundabout in the western lakeside city, blocking roads with broken boulders and flinging stones and setting tires on fire.
“It wasn’t impartial or free. Collins Odoyo, a 26-year-old follower of Collins Odinga, hurried off to join the crowd while wearing no shoes and carrying a vuvuzela horn across his back. “We were deceived,” he told AFP.
In anticipation of potential protests over the outcome, many Kisumu businesses had already stopped up shop. At least one supermarket was also ransacked by young men who made off with food and electronics.
“The government needs to take our input. As police attempted to disperse the protest with tear gas, 24-year-old Isaac Onyango, with eyes flowing, yelled, “They must rerun the election.”
A teenage man in a balaclava brandished a club and said, “You can’t steal from us!”
We won’t give up, screamed another demonstrator as they loaded a rock into a slingshot.
Quit lying to Kenyans
Many residents of Kisumu had been anxiously awaiting an Odinga triumph because they saw it as a just coronation for a man who had been long denied the throne.
Even when the race was close on Monday morning, most people were unable or unwilling to consider any other possibility than their man winning.
But that was not to be.
In a matter of minutes after William Ruto was declared the winner, demonstrators yelled “No Baba, No Peace” as they set fire to tires and wooden booths to block off a busy crossroads in Kisumu.
As protests broke out in the Mathare slum of Nairobi, where Odinga is well-liked, AFP correspondents said that police opened fire with live rounds.
As they threw rocks, supporters in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, requested another round of voting.
Emmanuel Otieno, a motorcycle taxi driver, claimed that “Baba’s vote has been stolen.”
Eliud Omolo, another demonstrator with an Odinga banner, yelled, “Quit lying to Kenyans, we know Baba won.”
Keep the peace
In sharp contrast, Eldoret, Ruto’s Rift Valley stronghold, burst in joy even before the 55-year-old was named president-elect.
As hundreds of people carried Ruto posters across the city, instructor Winnie Ndalut told AFP, “We are really thrilled that it’s one of our own… we are proud of our boy.”
“It is the triumph of everyone who is economically at the bottom… We are confident that he will be the one to lift us,” she stated.
From noon (0900 GMT) onward, thousands of people gathered at one of Eldoret’s busiest junctions to view the election results on a huge screen.
As he awaited the official results, 34-year-old Laban Keter told AFP that “William Ruto is going to be the president of those who lose and of those who win.” Keter pleaded with Odinga supporters to “please accept the verdict of the people.”
He urged everyone to maintain peace and support the election’s victor in order to move the nation forward.
“This is a win for all of Kenya; there is no division; we are all members of the same family; we are all brothers and sisters. Hillary Kebenei, a wholesaler, stated that Kenya is one.