Nairobi, March 4: Millions of Kenyans on Monday cast their ballots in a nationwide election that is expected to usher in a fresh presidential era. Five years ago, post-election violence had severely affected this east Asian nation and put its economy in a shambles. One thousand people were killed in the violence.
The voters braved an instance of bloodshed in Mombasa in south Kenya on Monday and queued for long hours outside the polling booths to exercise their franchise for presidential, parliamentary and provincial candidates. Some even turned before sunrise to cast their ballots.
Reports of problems in digital voting equipment and delays at some booths were heard from some areas. Some 14 million Kenyans voted in what is said to be the biggest election in the nation's history.
Election observers said the situation is much better this time, compared to that of 2007. Kibera, an epicenter of the violence that ignited after the elections that year, is also peaceful, they said.
The only instance of violence that marred Monday's poll was the murder of several police officers in Mombasa. Police sources said an armed gang clashed with the patrolling police officers. The assailants were suspected to be members of the Mombasa Republican Council, a separatist outfit which is against the election. More police personnel were deployed following the incident.
The current poll has Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta in the fray. Six other candidates are also in the race. Observers, however, feel that neither of the two frontrunning candidates will be able to secure a majority, hence necessitating a run-off election in April.
In 2007, Odinga's loss to outgoing President Mwai Kibaki had fuelled the ethnic violence, mainly between Odinga's Luo tribe and Kibaki's Kikuyus. Kenyatta, also a Kikuyu, and his aide William Ruto, were indicted by the International Criminal Court on grounds of instigating mob.