Riots Break Out as Kenyans Await Election Results Crowds rioted, burning homes and looting shops, in Kenya on Saturday as the country awaited the results of Thursday's presidential election. The race pitted the incumbent president against a charismatic populist.
NPR logo

Riots Break Out as Kenyans Await Election Results

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/17696871/17696861" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Riots Break Out as Kenyans Await Election Results

Riots Break Out as Kenyans Await Election Results

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/17696871/17696861" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden.

In Kenya today, crowds rioted, burned homes and looted shops as the country awaited results of Thursday's presidential election. The race is hot - probably the hottest in Kenya's history - and pits the incumbent president against a charismatic populist. There's been fighting from the Ugandan border to the Indian Ocean.

NPR's Gwen Thompkins filed this report from Kibera, one of the world's largest slums and the scene of rioting earlier today.

(Soundbite of crowd)

GWEN THOMPKINS: At first, the fellows at the Boys to Men Barbershop in the Kibera slum were angry that the Electoral Commission of Kenya has not yet announced the results of Thursday's presidential election. Then the fellows were angry when the commission announced preliminary results that they didn't like.

The incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, appeared to be closing in on challenger Raila Odinga. The election had been seen as Odinga is to lose and Kibera is Odinga country. At the barbershop, the chairs were full, nobody was getting his hair cut and all eyes were on the television screen.

(Soundbite of television report)

Mr. SAMUEL KIVUITU (Chairman, Electoral Commission, Kenya): We do not favor anybody. We don't favor anybody.

THOMPKINS: That's Samuel Kivuitu, the man with the worst job in Kenya today. Kivuitu heads the nation's electoral commission, and he's been screamed at all afternoon - at the commission's headquarters in Nairobi and in absentia at the Boys to Men Barbershop.

The guys here can't understand why the tally has taken so long, or why the president appears to be eating away at the challenger's lead, or why the commission has received results from as far away as Kenya's border with neighboring Sudan faster than it's received results from across town.

Kivuitu has vowed to call the race if the outstanding results fail to arrive soon. But in the meantime, he reminded Kenyans that the commission is only the messenger.

(Soundbite of television report)

Mr. KIVUITU: So we will read the results as we receive it. And that we're asking for patience because we don't make them. We don't make them.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Mr. EVANS YANGAO(ph) (Driver): Everybody here has seen that Raila was leading around with - at least clear from Kibaki - 1.1 million votes. But waking up in the morning, we were shocked to see that Kibaki have achieved to regain 600,000 votes from where.

THOMPKINS: That's Evans Yangao. He drives a small bus called a makatu from the slum to the city center. Every day, he drives the same route 15 times or more. And every day, he wishes he had a better job. Yangao says Raila Odinga can make that possible.

Mr. YANGAO: Mr. Raila Odinga. He's my hero, in fact. He's a fighter. He's a warrior. What we are expecting, it is more opportunities to be created in which, me, as an individual, I believe that Raila can deliver us.

THOMPKINS: This is the closest presidential election that Kenya has ever had, and charges of vote rigging are rife. The race pits the nation's two largest ethnic groups against one another.

Kibaki is a Kikuyu, which is the nation's largest ethnic group. Odinga is from the nation's second-largest group, the Luo. But each side needs the support of Kenya's 40 other ethnic groups to win. Yangao, the bus driver, is a Kisii, and he couldn't wait to vote for Odinga.

Tigoi(ph) schoolteacher Nuru Wasige(ph). He's a Luhya from Western Kenya. And he's lived in Kibera for 20 years. Wasige says Kenya has already had two Kikuyu presidents since independence, and it's time for another ethnic group to take charge.

Mr. NURU WASIGE (Schoolteacher): My only little reason why I'm voting in Raila is one. The president should be rotational. It has to go to another community rather than remaining in one ethnic group.

THOMPKINS: If the parliamentary vote is any indicator of how the presidential tally will go, then Kibaki's camp should be nervous. Sixteen members of Kibaki's cabinet lost their seats in parliament Thursday, including the vice president and the foreign minister.

But Martha Karua, the minister of justice, kept her seat and she was in the fray before the electoral commission this afternoon, defending what appeared to be a Kibaki surge in the ballots. That's her shouting, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman.

Justice MARTHA KARUA (Minister of Justice, Kenya): Mr. Chairman. This election will be won by the ballots, not by mere shouting.

THOMPKINS: But for now, the only thing Kenyans can do is shout and hope that volume prevails. The electoral commission has said it will not announce any more results until Sunday morning, which makes for a long night in Kibera and elsewhere around the country.

At the Boys to Men Barbershop, interest moved to the next most famous ethnic luau in politics. One customer turned and asked, so how's Barack Obama doing against Hillary Clinton?

Gwen Thompkins, NPR News, Nairobi.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.