Violence has flared on election day in Kenya, with at least 13 people killed in co-ordinated attacks on the coast. A group of 200 Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) secessionists armed with guns, machetes and bows and arrows set a trap for police before dawn, killing five officers, the Kenyan police inspector general, David Kimaiyo, said. One attacker also died. A second attack by secessionists in nearby Kilifi killed one police officer and five attackers, Kimaiyo said. A Kilifi police official, Clemence Wangai, said seven people had died in that assault, including an election official. The separatist group denied any responsibility for the attacks, however. “We are not responsible for any attacks anywhere in this region,” the MRC spokesman Mohammed Rashid Mraja told the Reuters news agency, adding that the group only sought change through peaceful means. Kenya is facing a huge test as it seeks to avoid a repeat of the ethnic violence left more than 1,100 people dead and 600,000 displaced following the 2007 election. Officials, candidates and media have made impassioned pleas for peace this time.
The two leading candidates vying for the presidency condemned the Mombasa attacks. The prime minister, Raila Odinga, called it a “heinous act of aggression” during a historic exercise. The deputy prime minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is facing charges at the international criminal court, said he was discouraged but sure that the security situation would be brought under control.
Authorities flew 400 extra police officers into Mombasa to increase security. The UN restricted the movement of its staff on the coast because of the violence.
Elsewhere, millions of Kenyans were queuing patiently and peacefully to vote in what officials described as a “huge turnout”, despite some problems with a new computer system. Anti-fraud fingerprint voter ID technology being used for the first time broke down in many areas. Officials admitted that many polling stations had opened late and there were problems with transporting election materials.
In the early hours before voting, some Kenyans blew whistles and trumpet-like vuvuzelas to wake up voters. In the capital, Nairobi, there were few cars on the streets but long lines of people snaking for several hundreds of metres.