Update: Kenya postpones delayed voting amid fears of more violence

Update 5.59pm: Kenya's election commission has postponed voting in some opposition strongholds on Saturday, citing concerns about the safety of election staff.

Electoral commission chairman Wafula Chebukati made the announcement after opposition leaders warned of further bloodshed if polling stations opened in areas where voting did not occur in Thursday's repeat presidential election.

The opposition boycotted the election and its supporters clashed with police in several areas, leading the election commission to delay voting in parts of western Kenya until the weekend.

Mr Chebukati did not say when the voting will now take place.

At least five people have died so far in clashes between police and protesters.

A cyclist rides past burning shops during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
A cyclist rides past burning shops during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya, Friday. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted Thursday's rerun vote and disrupted efforts to open polling stations in some areas, compelling the election commission to delay voting in several western regions where anti-government sentiment is strong.

The governor of one county, Kisumu, described the plan to open the polls on Saturday as a "joke".

Peter Anyang' Nyong'o said he feared security forces would open fire on opposition protesters if there was an attempt to open polling stations.

Clashes between police and opposition supporters continued on Friday.

One man was shot dead in Bungoma County, raising the death toll since Thursday's vote to at least five, and a 12-year-old boy and three other people were shot and wounded in Migori County, according to police.

A couple run past burning shops during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
A couple run past burning shops during clashes in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Thursday's election had a sharply lower turnout because of the opposition boycott. The election commission said about 6.5 million people, or a third of registered voters, went to the polls.

Nearly 80% of registered voters participated in the August election that the Supreme Court later nullified because of irregularities.

Earlier: Kenya fears more bloodshed as delayed voting to proceed

Kenya's opposition has appealed to election officials not to conduct voting in four troubled counties on Saturday, saying it will lead to more bloodshed after at least five people died in clashes between police and protesters.

Supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga boycotted Thursday's repeat presidential election and disrupted efforts to open polling stations in some areas, compelling the election commission to delay voting in several western regions where anti-government sentiment is strong.

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses his supporters in Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya Friday. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga addresses his supporters in Kibera area of Nairobi, Kenya Friday. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

The governor of one county, Kisumu, described the plan to open the polls on Saturday as a "joke".

Peter Anyang' Nyong'o said he fears security forces will open fire on opposition protesters if there is an attempt to open polling stations.

If the election commission chief "wants to hold the election here, he is just going to cause more deaths", Mr Nyong'o said.

Church leaders and lawyers in Kisumu city also criticised the plan, and a senior opposition official, Musalia Mudavadi, urged people in the four counties to again stay home.

Clashes between police and opposition supporters continued on Friday.

One man was shot dead in Bungoma County, raising the death toll since Thursday's vote to at least five, and a 12-year-old boy and three other people were shot and wounded in Migori County, according to police.

Thursday's election had a sharply lower turnout because of the opposition boycott. The election commission said about 6.5 million people, or a third of registered voters, went to the polls.

Nearly 80% of registered voters participated in the August election that the Supreme Court later nullified because of irregularities.

Supporters of the opposition react as they demand resignation of a local police chief because of police cruelty on the previous day, in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Supporters of the opposition react as they demand resignation of a local police chief because of police cruelty on the previous day, in Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

The election commission asked Kenyans to be calm and patient while it counts and verifies results from the new vote.

Commission chief Wafula Chebukati said he understands the fatigue many Kenyans feel over the political uncertainty in east Africa's economic hub, adding: "We acknowledge the fact that you want to move on with your lives."

President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote. Mr Odinga, whose legal challenge led to the vote being nullified, withdrew from the new election, saying the process was not credible because of the lack of electoral reforms.

The Supreme Court's decision was the first time a court in Africa had overturned a presidential vote.

The ruling was sharply criticised by Mr Kenyatta, who is seeking a second term. After voting on Thursday, he said he will work to unify the country if re-elected.

"What we have is a problem of tribalism, and tribalism is an issue that we must continue to deal with and fight with as we continue to develop our country," Mr Kenyatta said.

Many observers say Kenya's ethnic-based politics overshadow the promise of its democracy. Mr Kenyatta, who got 54% of the vote in August, is from the Kikuyu group, while Mr Odinga, who got nearly 45%, is a Luo.

The pair also faced off in a 2013 election similarly marred by opposition allegations of vote-rigging.

The opposition leader also ran unsuccessfully in 2007, and ethnic-fuelled violence after that vote killed more than 1,000 people and forced 600,000 from their homes.

AP


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