People & Money

East Africa holds its breath and Western embassies on high alert as Kenya goes to the polls tomorrow

NAIROBI – Months of campaigning in thousands of cities and towns across Kenya has ended as the country is nervously counting down to election day with 22m going to the polls tomorrow.

Thousands of businesses are preparing to temporarily shut down, primarily to monitor whether the days immediately after the election will bring violence, rioting and looting.

Most offices, restaurants, bars, some larger supermarkets and most malls will close tonight, the evening before Kenyans go to the polls, which is traditionally a public holiday.

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Moreover, tens of thousands of students across Kenya have been ordered to return home as the country’s biggest election in years is less than 24 hours away.

Tomorrow, the top job is up for grabs on August 9, which will be the climax of a months-long fierce battle between politician veteran Raila Odinga and the current deputy president William Ruto, even though the latter fell out with outgoing president Uhuru Kenyatta several years ago and he has effectively been operating outside government ever since.

In addition, hundreds of other public offices are being contested, including the governorship of Nairobi, local councils, all parliament seats and dozens of local and regional positions across the entire nation.

Tensions rising

In an election campaign that is increasingly turning ugly, with accusations of corruption, land grabbing and power abuse flying left, right and centre, Kenyans are nervously awaiting what election day, and particularly its aftermath, will bring.

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Western embassies are on high alert and most have started sending pre-election warnings to their citizens, ranging from warnings to leave the country if you can to have your ‘grab and go bag’ ready.

People are urged to stay close to home and stock up on food, water, rice and pasta, if possible. Power outages and WiFi disruption is also expected tomorrow and later this week.

A government official in Nairobi, who wishes to remain anonymous, told City A.M. yesterday that authorities are preparing for some election violence: “Yes, we have indications things may turn ugly in some places. There is a lot of activity on social media at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the first election observers from the European Union have been spotted in capital Nairobi.

A small army of EU representatives will be present at polling stations, primarily in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and a number of other cities across the country.

2007-2008 election violence

The main reason many Kenyans are increasingly on high alert is because millions have not forgotten the tense and bloody election in 2007, when president Mwai Kibaki’s re-election put a dent in his reputation as his victory was disputed by his opponent, Raila Odinga, who is the most likely candidate to become the nation’s next president later this month.

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At the time, Odinga asserted that the election result had been rigged and that he had really won the poll. Hundreds of people were killed in weeks of ethnic violence that followed.

2007-2008 election violence

The main reason many Kenyans are increasingly on high alert is because millions have not forgotten the tense and bloody election in 2007, when president Mwai Kibaki’s re-election put a dent in his reputation as his victory was disputed by his opponent, Raila Odinga, who is the most likely candidate to become the nation’s next president later this month.

At the time, Odinga asserted that the election result had been rigged and that he had really won the poll. Hundreds of people were killed in weeks of ethnic violence that followed.

Two of the four suspects were Uhuru Kenyatta, the current president, and William Ruto, the high-profile deputy president who hopes to become president next week.

This article was culled from cityam.com

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