Short skirmishes slow count in Kenya’s near election

Nairobi, Kenya — Kenya’s peaceful presidential election was briefly disrupted late Saturday as riot police responded to clashes at the national counting center amid tensions over the close results.

An agent for former opposition leader and candidate Raila Odinga announced from the lectern that the counting center was the “scene of a crime” before peace was restored. The agent, Saitabao Ole Kanchory, offered no evidence in the latest example of the unverified claims both top campaigns have made as Kenya awaits official results.

The electoral commission has seven days from Tuesday’s elections to announce the results. Chairman Wafula Chebukati again said on Saturday that the process was too slow and the commission told non-essential people watching in the center to leave.

The police remained in the center on Sunday morning.

The race remains tense between Odinga and Vice President William Ruto as the Election Commission physically checks over 46,000 results forms that are sent electronically from across the country.

Turnout fell sharply in this election, to 65%, as some Kenyans expressed fatigue over seeing long-known political leaders on the ballot and frustration over economic issues, including widespread corruption and rising prices. Outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta crossed the ethnic lines that had long marked politics by supporting Odinga. Years ago, the president got into an argument with his deputy Ruto.

Recent elections have been marked by political violence, but observers from civil society, police, religious leaders and others have said it was peaceful.

Speaking to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “encouraged continued peace and patience as the votes from the August 9 elections continue in Kenya,” spokesman Ned Price said.

In western Kenya, residents said they were tired of waiting for results but stressed that they had also been dulled by the turbulence of the past.

“We are not ready for any violence here,” said Ezekiel Kibet, 40, who said he would accept the results if the process is transparent. “We are thinking about how our children will go back to school.”

“Let whoever wins rule us,” added Daniel Arap Chepkwony, 63. “A lot of people think we’re going to come out here with our guns, but we won’t.”

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An Associated Press journalist in Kingwal contributed to this report.

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