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Kenyan electoral violence leaves 2 officers dead

Policemen are among hundreds deployed to Nyanza province ahead of today's election

Kenyan electoral violence leaves 2 officers dead

Two Kenyan policemen were killed by an angry mob of opposition supporters who accused the government of trying to rig presidential polls, police said yesterday as tension mounted on the eve of the vote.
The pair were among hundreds of policemen deployed in the western Nyanza province to reinforce security ahead of today's election, a tight race between incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga.
"Two were killed in a fight with the public" late Tuesday in Suba district, about 300 kilometers from the capital Nairobi, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told Agence France-Presse.
"We are investigating the incident as well as struggling to ensure that security prevails in the areas during the elections."
Witnesses said riot police managed to rescue other policemen who were being attacked by the mob.
On Tuesday, Odinga, 62, a flamboyant former political prisoner who is leading opinion polls, charged that the police were being used to rig today's election - a claim rejected by the government.
Anti-Kibaki sentiment
Nyanza province is a bastion of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, and witnesses said anti-Kibaki sentiment was running high.
"Tension is very high in the affected districts, but we have deployed enough officers," provincial police commander Grace Kaindi said. "The public is very furious about the claims of rigging."
Meanwhile, ODM spokeswoman Rose Luhalo told AFP that a suspect believed to have stuffed ballot boxes with pre-marked papers was arrested in the western town of Eldoret in Rift Valley province.
"We are also getting information from the public that the government is trying to recruit people for rigging, but people cannot come out in the open because of fear of reprisals," she said.
Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman Samuel Kivuitu said his panel has put in place elaborate measures to avoid vote-rigging, which was widespread during the country's three other multi-party elections.
Final opinion polls released last week gave Odinga 43 to 45 percent, ahead of Kibaki's 36.7 to 43 percent. Only a survey conducted by U.S. pollster Gallup showed Kibaki on top, with 44 percent to Odinga's 43 percent.
Gaining support
Pollsters indicate Odinga's charisma has gained him support beyond his tribal constituency. But he has joined seven political parties in 15 years, leading to charges of being a populist and an opportunist.
Escalating tribal rhetoric has prompted fears of communal unrest in Kenya, which has been more stable than its neighbors since its 1963 independence from Britain but has a history of electoral violence.
Kenya's leading rights group says that at least 70 people have died in poll-related violence since the campaign started, but few incidents have been reported in recent days and candidates have appealed for calm.
Tribal violence has displaced tens of thousands in the western Rift Valley, a province with the largest number of voters and home to a mosaic of feuding communities.
The electoral board has organized voting in mobile booths there.
Police said they had beefed up security in 27,000 polling stations across the country that will be manned by around 15,000 electoral observers, including some from the European Union and the Commonwealth.
Kenyans will also choose 210 members of parliament and more than 2,000 local councillors today, with some observers predicting that increasingly demanding electors could vote out up to 70 percent of sitting MPs.
Some 14 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots.

Updated : 2022-01-19 12:59 GMT+08:00