Kenyan President Re-Elected Incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was sworn into office Sunday, amid allegations that the government stole the vote. NPR's Gwen Thompkins visits a Nairobi slum where angry voters carrying machetes, bricks, and large sticks were being held at bay by police and military forces. Jacki Lyden also discusses mounting tensions.
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Kenyan President Re-Elected

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Kenyan President Re-Elected

Kenyan President Re-Elected

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, took the oath of office for another term today, minutes after being declared the winner of a bitterly disputed election. Kenyans voted Thursday. Since then, as they awaited results, rioting and looting broke out. Tonight, the government suspended live television coverage.

NPR's Gwen Thompkins was out in the streets of Nairobi earlier. I asked her about the scene there.

GWEN THOMPKINS: Well, the streets right now are eerily quiet. There are young men who are walking around in the dark. Some who I talked to and they said they are ready for a fight. You know, I was in the Kibera slum, which is actually one of the world's largest slums, and it's also a stronghold of the challenger in the presidential race, Mr. Raila Odinga. And just after the announcement was made, I was there at Kibera and the people there were irate. They were saying that the election had been stolen, as scores and scores of young men with very big sticks, some with machetes, some with pocket knives, some with bricks and they were all trying to get out of Kibera and take to the streets. Others were knocking down the stalls in the market areas. The police were on the scene. They were sealing the slum.

I also went to an area that was a stronghold of Mr. Kibaki, the incumbent who's just been sworn in today and that area wasn't filled with people who are gloating per se. It was filled with people who look like they were getting ready to be attacked by somebody else. And they said that they were ready for the attack.

LYDEN: Let's look behind some of these tensions, Gwen. Initially, the challenger, Raila Odinga, was in the lead, the man who's popular in the slum of Kibera, as you just mentioned.

For the last 12 weeks or so, he's been way ahead in public opinion polls. And then this weekend, the election commission declared that President Kibaki was gaining. The next thing we heard was that he had actually been declared the winner. And I gather the mood is - by the people - that the vote was rigged.

THOMPKINS: Yes. That is certainly the perception that is very widespread. Now - today, the electoral commission went before hundreds of reporters and photographers and was poised to make its announcement of who won the election and the challenger, Raila Odinga, and a huge entourage, interrupted the event asked for the results in certain areas to be reconsidered, was rebuffed, left the media center and then within minutes - very quietly - the electoral commission, before a few Western journalists and only one Kenyan news agency, announced that Mr. Kibaki had indeed won.

LYDEN: Now, we heard in your report for our show yesterday, Gwen, that there was a lot of underlying ethnic tension behind this rivalry. There must be more concern about that today.

THOMPKINS: You're absolutely right, Jacki. I mean, there are other issues. There are issues of corruption. There are issues of poverty. There are issues of education. But first and foremost, this is a race by ethnicity, and the president, Mwai Kibaki, is Kikuyu. He is a member of the largest ethnic group in Kenya. The challenger, Raila Odinga, is Luo. The Luos have never had a president of Kenya. Raila Odinga, they believe was their candidate. He has an awful lot of popular support here, but not just among the Luos, but among many other ethnic groups in Kenya who were in league with the Luos. Many believe that the Kikuyus have had their chance and that it's time for someone else to take charge.

NPR's Gwendolyn Thompkins, speaking to us from Nairobi.

Gwen, Thank you very, very much.

THOMPKINS: Thank you, Jacki.

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