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Voters in Kenya went to the polls today to choose their next leader. The contest pitted the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first president, against Raila Odinga. He's the son of Kenya's first vice president. Official election results are not expected before tomorrow, but early results put the incumbent Kenyatta in the lead. His challenger is rejecting the early numbers as fictitious. Disputed results led to widespread ethnic violence after elections 10 years ago. NPR's Eyder Peralta filed this report earlier today from Nairobi.
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EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The usually bustling streets of Nairobi are empty. Stores are closed. And in some places, all you can hear is the whir of a police helicopter overhead.
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PERALTA: It feels like all of this big city emptied out into the polling places where Kenyans poured their hopes onto ballots. Fatuma Rehan Juma had just finished voting at a polling place in Kibera, one of Africa's biggest slums. She says she wakes up at 3 a.m. each morning to make samosas and other snacks to sell on the streets. She works all day, but sometimes she doesn't sell enough to be able to feed her three grandchildren.
FATUMA REHAN JUMA: Me as a person, I need things. I want things. And I vote for Raila Amolo Odinga.
PERALTA: At 58, Fatuma says this is the first time she believes that change is possible. This is the first time that she believes a fair electoral system will allow an opposition leader to come to power.
JUMA: Because all the loopholes have been closed.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).
PERALTA: There's no way to rig this?
JUMA: No way. And even if they rig, now Kenyans knows everything. They know they are right. Before we didn't know. You could not even talk. You could not even raise your voice. But now we can.
PERALTA: As we speak, Raila Odinga shows up to vote and his SUV is mobbed by supporters.
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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Raila.
PERALTA: A similar scene plays out in Gatundu about an hour north, except there it was President Uhuru Kenyatta who votes in his stronghold. As he emerges from the voting booth, he says he is confident that he will be victorious and go on to a second term. Then he sends a message to Kenyans.
PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: Peace, peace, peace, peace. (Speaking Swahili).
PERALTA: "Every Kenyan," he says, "should take part in their democracy and then go and wait for results." "There is no need for violence," he says, "as every Kenyan is a brother and sister." Voting in the country went on with no significant irregularities. The elections commission said there were some cases of ballots that had already been filled out when they were passed on to voters and another case where a clerk was stamping ballots as rejected. Back in Kibera, I find Oyugi Otieno. He had already voted, and he felt certain that the opposition candidate would win.
OYUGI OTIENO: And, you know, power is not given. Power is taken. Yeah, so I'm here to take the power.
PERALTA: Back in 2007, this slum saw some of the most deadly violence. Otieno remembers that. And he says he wants peace, but a rigged election is unacceptable.
OTIENO: War is bad. War is expensive. War will damage us. But when it comes to fight for your right, you have to - you got to fight, my friend.
PERALTA: Kenya's elections board expects to announce final results as early as tomorrow. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.
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