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In Kenya election re-run, polling incomplete and next steps uncertain

The first legal challenge came less than 24 hours after Thursday’s vote, when an activist filed a case seeking to nullify the election, which the opposition rejected as a “sham”.

Neither of the two main parties, nor the election board had any appearances scheduled on Saturday, leaving the country waiting for the next step as the votes are counted.

If the expected legal challenges fail to clear a path out of the crisis, including a possible order for another rerun, the result will be the continuation of a protracted and economically damaging stalemate between the Kenyatta and Odinga camps.

The electoral saga is polarizing the nation and slowing growth in what has been one of Africa’s most vibrant economies, as well as a regional trade hub and a powerful security ally for Western nations. A decade ago, 1,200 Kenyans were killed in violence after a disputed poll.

In Odinga strongholds, such as Kisumu, residents had defiantly blocked roads, clashed with police, and intimidated election officials to prevent voting on Thursday.

They accused authorities of trying to “force” participation.

“This is pure oppression,” said Hassan Hussein, a Muslim community leader. “The law says if you want to vote, you vote, if not, you don’t.”

In a statement Saturday, the IEBC election board condemned what it said was harassment by a member of parliament on “an IEBC official performing his duties” after a video went viral on social media, further stirring anger online.

The MP, Alice Wahome, who is a member of the ruling Jubilee party’s coalition, told Kenya’s Standard newspaper the returning officer had refused to sign off the necessary paperwork and was seeking to leave, having “snatched the forms from other agents”.

Anger at police is flaring in opposition areas in western counties, Nairobi slums and the coastal city of Mombasa.

“People from this region are feeling isolated from the rest of the country,” said Eric Chitayi, a security guard in Kisumu. “We are feeling disconnected.”

Pastor Fred Olando from Kisumu, describing how water cannon trucks and anti-riot police had been patrolling day and night in his neighborhood: “We fear this government and these police.”

Violence has killed at least five people since Thursday’s vote. People died from gunshot wounds and beatings by police, according to hospital staff.

In the aftermath of the August election, at least 45 people died during a police crackdown on opposition supporters, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

On Friday evening in the Nairobi slum of Kawangware, a Reuters witness saw nearly 100 youths armed with machetes in red T-shirts – the color of the ruling party – as a group of opposition supporters clashed with police.

In the western town of Migori, another scene of clashes, a local journalist said police assaulted him on Saturday morning. “They removed me from my home, I produced my press card, and they slapped me and beat me with a baton,” said Caleb Kingwara, a photographer for Kenya’s Standard newspaper.

The European Union said in a statement: “It is imperative that the security forces provide protection to all citizens and avoid the excessive use of force.”

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