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Sat Apr 18 21:21:36 SAST 2015

Uhuru Kenyatta on course for victory in Kenya

Reuters | 06 March, 2013 01:00
An official from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission inspects ballot boxes at Kasarani gymnasium in Nairobi, Kenya. The election brought out millions of voters despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people
Image by: STEVE CRISP/REUTERS

Kenyan presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta opened an early lead as ballots were counted yesterday in an election that brought out millions of voters, despite pockets of violence that killed at least 15 people.

The deputy prime minister, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity linked to the last election, was provisionally ahead of Prime Minister Raila Odinga by 53% to 42%, with about half the votes counted.

But Kenyatta could still be overhauled as the count goes on in a vote Kenyans hope will restore their nation's image as one of Africa's most stable democracies after the bloodshed five years ago.

Although voting passed off broadly peacefully with a big turnout, the real test will be whether the candidates and their backers accept the result, after the disputed 2007 vote touched off ethnic blood-letting that killed more than 1200 people.

"Nobody should celebrate, nobody should complain," election commission chairman Isaac Hassan told journalists, saying work was going on to resolve glitches and speed up the count.

"We therefore continue to appeal for patience from the public."

The commission says provisional results may not be tallied until today, meaning an official declaration will not come until then or later.

About 60% of polling stations have yet to report. Odinga's camp said counting in their strongholds had not been completed yet and a debate over the fate of a sizeable number of rejected votes could help shift the balance.

The US and Western donors have watched the vote closely.

They also worry about what to do if Kenyatta wins, because of the charges he faces at the International Criminal Court.

"People should be patient; in 2007 Mr Odinga was leading against Mwai Kibaki in preliminary results, the following day when we woke up, things had turned upside down and Kibaki won the elections. I believe the same thing could happen," said Christopher Otieno, 31, a seller of household wares.

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