Kenyans Will Vote For A New President Amid Fears Of Election Violence

Aug 7, 2017
Originally published on August 7, 2017 7:36 am
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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Tomorrow, Kenyans will go to the polls to choose a president. Much of the talk in the media has been about potential rigging of the polls and of violence. That's because many remember how elections unfolded 10 years ago. Back then, the elections led to months of ethnic violence that devastated communities across the country. NPR's Eyder Peralta is at a bus depot in Nairobi right now to talk about what to expect in these elections. Hi, Eyder.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: So what is it like to be in Nairobi right now?

PERALTA: You know, I grew up in Florida. And it really feels like the days before a hurricane. People are going to supermarkets. And they're stocking up. And right now, I'm in the middle of a bus depot. And the reason for that is because over the past couple of days, people have been going upcountry. They've been leaving Nairobi to be with their tribes, where they feel safe.

CHANG: What are the chances of a replay of the chaos and violence we saw in 2007?

PERALTA: I mean, that's the hardest question to answer. Last time, you know, the violence was sparked by huge irregularities in the voting. They turned into tribal clashes. And, you know, that left more than a thousand Kenyans dead. And, you know, people are afraid of that and, in some ways, with a lot of reason. In the past two weeks, we've had just a series of dramatic events here. And they make Kenyans question not only their safety but the integrity of their electoral system.

In recent days, the vice president's rural home was attacked by a man wielding a machete. Chris Msando, who was in charge of the electronic voting system - and he was the guy who had been telling Kenyans that this system was rig-proof - he was killed. And I mean, I should say, not only killed, he was tortured. According to the autopsy, he had a broken bone and deep cuts in his arm. And he was likely strangled to death by someone using their bare hands.

CHANG: Wow.

PERALTA: And finally, over the weekend, two foreign advisers for the opposition, an American and a Canadian, were arrested and deported. So I think, needless to say, things are tense here. But it's hard to tell whether any of this will lead to any unrest.

CHANG: I mean, it makes it sound like politics is maybe the last thing on people's minds right now. Tell us about these two leading presidential candidates.

PERALTA: So you have President Uhuru Kenyatta, who's seeking a second term, and Raila Odinga, who's the perennial opposition figure. And this is his fourth time running for president. I think what's important about this election is that it's been seen as the last breath of a rivalry that was born at independence (ph) in 1964.

Uhuru Kenyatta was the son of the first president. Raila Odinga was the son of the first vice president. And those two founders had a falling out in the '60s. And that has really shaped Kenyan politics since then.

I spoke to PLO Lumumba. He runs the Kenyan School of Law. And he's one of the country's great thinkers. And what he says is he's really looking forward to this election being done. Let's listen to a bit of what he had to say.

PLO LUMUMBA: We are seeing the last of the crop of these politicians. And that come the elections in 2022, I think there'll be a new crop of leaders. There'll be new thinking. There is new mobilization. And in my view, that mobilization must start on the 9 of August so that we begin to educate Kenyans that we must think beyond the primordial instincts of ethnicity.

CHANG: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Nairobi. Thank you very much, Eyder.

PERALTA: Thank you, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE SHAOLIN AFRONAUTS' "VOYAGE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.