At least 15 people have been killed in attacks along Kenya’s coast today, tainting an otherwise peaceful Kenyan election day. Kenya’s first election since 2007 has largely been a peaceful affair, despite memories of the ethnic killings that took place after the last election.
Reuters reports that at least nine security officers were killed in two separate attacks this morning by assailants wielding machetes. Six of the attackers were also killed. The attacks came before polls opened, and senior police officers accredited the attacks to a separatist movement.
Today’s attacks were quite unlike the bloodshed that followed Kenya’s last election, in which over 1,000 people lost their lives. Voters remain divided along ethnic lines, and many have not forgotten the slaughter that followed the last election. Many feared that today’s election would be marred by a similar streak of violence, and while that has not yet been the case, there is still uncertainty over what may occur after the victor is announced.
Polls have closed across the country, and early results show Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta slightly ahead of Minister Raila Odinga, who lost in 2007 to current President Mwai Kibaki. Kenyatta is the son of Kenya’s first president and has been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity. He resigned from his position as Minister of Finance in the wake of these charges.
Kenya is Africa’s fourth-largest democracy. Many of the country’s 14.3 million voters faced long lines today, but voter turnout was still over 70 percent. This Kenyan election day marks another measure of whether African democracy will continue to flourish in the face of instability from neighboring countries such as Somalia, long considered a failed state.
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