Kenyan president says he is willing to negotiate after election boycott

By Jason Burke in Nairobi | Guardian |

President Uhuru Kenyatta has raised the prospect of negotiations with his opponent as millions of Kenyans voted in a contentious election rerun marred by a widely observed boycott and sporadic violence.

 

Four people died as opposition supporters and police clashed outside polling stations, forcing election officials to postpone voting in parts of the country until Saturday.

 

The rerun is the latest twist in a long and increasingly chaotic political saga, which has polarised the country, and looks unlikely to end soon.

Before voting began, Raila Odinga, the opposition leader, called on supporters to stay at home, leaving polling stations in his strongholds almost empty, in stark contrast to the first election, which the supreme court annulled last month.

Voting was brisk in areas loyal to Kenyatta, though even here turnout appeared to be significantly lower than for the previous election in August.

“It is important to vote because the current problems are not helpful and we should finish this thing and go back to the routine,” said Peter Mwanda, a 32-year-old businessman, after voting in Roysambu, a neighbourhood in eastern Nairobi.

Kenyatta held out the prospect of negotiations with Odinga after casting his own vote.

“As a responsible leader you must reach out and that is my intention,” the 55-year-old, who has been in power since 2013, told reporters.

Observers pointed out, however, that Kenyatta used similar words after his victory in the August polls but no meaningful dialogue between the rivals had followed.

One man was shot dead and three others injured during protests in Odinga’s western stronghold of Kisumu. Another was killed in the Mathare slum in the capital, Nairobi, where scattered clashes continued into the early evening.

Senior police officers said the vote had passed off smoothly in most of the countryand warned that any attempt to interfere with the transport of ballot papers to counting stations would be met by “stern action”.

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