President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner Sunday of Kenya's presidential election and hastily sworn in, defying widespread concern over...
NAIROBI, Kenya — President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner Sunday of Kenya’s presidential election and hastily sworn in, defying widespread concern over vote irregularities and sparking riots and tribal violence.
Soon after the results were announced, the government suspended live television broadcasts and the slums, home to tens of thousands of opposition supporters, exploded into fresh violence. At least 15 people were killed in fighting across the country, police and witnesses said, although the tally was likely higher. At least 70 had died in earlier election-related violence.
“This country is going to turn into a war zone,” said Elisha Kayugira, who ran through the Kibera shantytown searching for his sister as columns of black smoke curled above the maze of shacks and winding dirt roads.
Others were waving machetes in the air as buses and shops burned.
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“These are our guns,” said 24-year-old Cliff Owino, holding up a handful of rocks in Mathare, another Nairobi slum where young men set up roadblocks and built bonfires. “But a voting card is our atomic weapon.”
In Kibaki’s strongholds, his supporters danced and sang.
The violence ran along tribal lines, as opposition supporters from the Luo tribe attacked those from Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe.
Before the chaotic election count, which saw European Union observers turned away without access to tallies, analysts and diplomats had viewed Kenya as one of the most promising democracies in Africa.
But the politics of the Big Man still holds sway in many parts of Africa, with only a few cases of incumbent presidents losing power through the ballot box.
After the 76-year-old president was sworn in for another five-year term, his challenger, opposition leader Raila Odinga, said a ruling clique was trying to rob Kenya of its democracy, wiping away tears as he spoke.
Odinga, 62, said he would be sworn in as “people’s president” in his own ceremony today and outlined plans for a parallel government. As he spoke, live television transmissions were abruptly cut.
According to the official result, Kibaki won 4,584,721 votes and Odinga had 4,352,993. Odinga was well ahead Friday, but Saturday saw the voting tally steadily tilt in Kibaki’s favor, triggering riots in cities across Kenya.
“Kenyans will not accept the results of a rigged election,” Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, had declared earlier Sunday. He said his party’s figures indicated the election had been rigged by 300,000 votes.
The parliamentary vote, also held Thursday, had shown a massive repudiation of the government. Twenty government ministers lost their seats.
The chief of the European Union election observers in the country, Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, reported evidence of irregularities.
A welder, Michael Mulama, 47, from Nairobi, said he was dismayed and puzzled by the result. “Why has Mzee done this?” he said, using a Kenyan nickname for Kibaki, meaning wise old man. “Is the government happy when people are dying? This is really bad.”
But at the swearing-in ceremony, just an hour after the result was announced, Kibaki insisted that the election was free and fair and called for reconciliation and healing.
“I urge all of us to set aside the passions that were excited by the election process, and work together as one people with the single purpose of building a strong, united, prosperous and equitable country,” he said.
With booming tourism and strong economic growth, Kenya is usually a haven of stability in one of the continent’s most volatile regions. But tribalism determines voting patterns and often erupts into violence. In the lead-up to elections in 1992, 2,000 people died in tribal violence.
Throughout Kenya, opposition supporters reacted with dismay and anger to Kibaki’s victory.
“I am disappointed,” said Joshua Owino, 32, a security guard in Nairobi. “I know Kenyans voted strongly for change, and it has been denied. This leadership is an indirect dictatorship.”
Under Kibaki, Kenya has enjoyed stable economic growth, a booming tourist industry and free elementary-school education, but his opponents say he did not deliver on his promise to deal with corruption.
Odinga, 62, the son of the country’s first vice president, is a wealthy businessman who promised to improve the lives of the poor.
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.