Kenyans are praying for a peaceful transition of power after almost a decade under President Uhuru Kenyatta, but concerns about vote-rigging linger.
Kenyans have lined up to vote in a high-stakes election, with the East African powerhouse on edge as two political heavyweights battle it out in a fiercely contested race for the presidency.
Kenyans are praying for a peaceful transition of power after almost a decade under President Uhuru Kenyatta, but concerns about vote-rigging linger in a nation still haunted by previous election disputes that descended into deadly violence.
More than 22 million people are registered to vote in an election taking place on Friday, with the economy and corruption key talking points.
Deputy president and erstwhile heir apparent William Ruto, 55, is pitted against Raila Odinga, the 77-year-old veteran opposition leader now backed by his longtime rival Kenyatta after a stunning shift in political allegiances
Polling stations opened from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) and are due to close at 5:00 pm (1400 GMT).
But neither candidates wins more than 50 percent of the votes, Kenya would be forced to hold a run-off for the first time in its history.
Pleas for peaceful vote
Despite mudslinging on the hustings and widespread disinformation, campaigning passed off largely peacefully in contrast to previous polls.
Pressure is on the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to ensure a free and fair vote in all six polls — for the presidency as well as for senators, governors, lawmakers, woman representatives and some 1,500 county officials.
But already, the election has run into some hitches, with six IEBC officials arrested on Monday and the commission suspending several local polls because of erroneous ballot papers.
Both Odinga and Ruto have called for a peaceful vote, but fears remain that if the losing candidate challenges the outcome — as widely expected — the discord could erupt into street fighting.
Security is tight, with more than 150,000 officers being deployed.
The trauma of the 2007 election, which was followed by a horrific bout of politically motivated ethnic clashes that killed more than 1,100 people, still looms large.
And Odinga’s challenge to the 2017 election result that saw then foe Kenyatta re-elected was met with a heavy-handed police response that left dozens dead.
The Supreme Court ordered a rerun in 2017, citing widespread irregularities.
No presidential election outcome has gone uncontested since 2002, and there will be an anxious wait for this year’s results which are not expected for several days.