Kenya is closed today. Apart from at the polling-stations, there is no activity anywhere. Much is at stake in today’s presidential election, not the least the question if riots and violence will erupt as the election result is published. Last time, in 2008, the country was partly on fire when angry supporters from different parties started to fight and loot. Thousands of people were killed, and the country was momentarily paralysed by inner fights. Today, the country is better prepared and both the military and police are prepared for the worst. When I talk to different persons with insight into the political system about the possibilities of new riots, the answers vary. There are built-in conflicts between the different leading tribes just waiting to explode. In the slums of Nairobi, in the western part of the country, in Rift Valley as well as on the coast, there most certainly will be conflicts.
At the same time, no one really wants fights and riots, as these severely hurt the credibility of the country. Kenya is the leading country in Eastern Africa and a motor for the development in the area, and it’s important to show the world that it is possible to keep law and order.
The 2013 election is the most important event in the area this year, according to several observers. Eight candidates are left, but the real choice stands between Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, and Raila Odinga. Kenyatta is by the way accused of crime against human rights and is awaiting ICC. Odinga, who lost the last election with the smallest margin, has been expected to win up to now, when new polls point in Kenyatta’s favour. 50 % of the votes are required to win and today both candidates have around 45 % each. If one candidate does not reach 50% of the votes, there will be a re-election at the beginning of April.
Returning from Nairobi Sunday night, we got a glimpse of the forces that can erupt. In the usually calm and peaceful city Karatina,our car came to a total stop during an hour, when thousands of election workers welled into the city from all corners. There was a sudden aggression when a drunk man stood in front of our car. He jammed his fist on the hood and screamed at our driver, and then jammed the hood again, hard and repeatedly. Our taxi-driver responded calmly but the man screamed and hit the car again. Our driver got mad, stood on the gas pedal and drove off, and the man was forced to throw himself to the side. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that no real riots will take place.