Nation/World

19 die during Kenyan voting

Masai women line up at dawn to vote in a general election in Kumpa, Kenya, on Monday. (Associated Press)
Masai women line up at dawn to vote in a general election in Kumpa, Kenya, on Monday. (Associated Press)

MOMBASA, Kenya – Kenya’s presidential election drew millions of eager voters who endured long lines to cast ballots Monday, but the vote was marred by violence that left 19 people dead, including four policemen killed by machete-wielding separatists.

Officials urged voters not to be intimidated by the violence amid fears the impending election results could spark another round of ethnic-related bloodshed. More than 1,000 people died after the 2007 vote.

The election is the first presidential poll under a new constitution designed to prevent the ethnic violence seen in 2007-’08. Enthusiastic voters formed long lines around the country, and election officials estimated turnout at 70 percent of 14 million registered voters.

The voting got off to a bloody start when a group of 200 separatists set a trap for police in the coastal city of Mombasa in the predawn hours, Inspector General David Kimaiyo said. Four police were hacked to death with machetes, coast police boss Aggrey Adoli said.

The separatist group – the Mombasa Republican Council – had threatened election-day attacks, and Kimaiyo said police were planning a raid “that will see the end of the MRC.”

The MRC believes Kenya’s coast should be an independent country. Their cause, which is not defined by religion, is fueled by the belief that political leaders in Nairobi have taken the coast’s land for themselves, impoverishing indigenous residents.

In addition to the attack in Mombasa, police blamed the MRC for three deadly attacks in nearby Kilifi. An Associated Press reporter visited a morgue and saw four dead young men wearing red bandannas – a sign of the MRC – who had been shot to death.

An AP tally of the violence found that four police and three MRC members died in Mombasa, while six government officials, four MRC members and two civilians died in the three attacks near the coastal city of Kilifi, all according to police and mortuary officials.

After the polls closed, gunshots and an explosion rang out in the city of Garissa, near the Somali border, as gunmen stormed two polling stations, said Farah Maalim, the deputy speaker of parliament. Security forces responded to the attack, and the gunmen fled.

The violence in the Mombasa and Garissa areas is separate from the ethnic violence that could break out related to election results, and which was so deadly after the 2007 vote.

Results are not expected until today or Wednesday. A run-off between the top presidential contenders is likely in April.



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