Wait for Kenya election result tests people’s patience

By Thomson Reuters Aug 12, 2022 | 9:53 AM

By Ayenat Mersie

ELDORET (Reuters) – At an intersection in the western Kenyan town of Eldoret, two groups of men stand on opposite street corners, gathered around newspaper stands, and whooping and gesturing at results so far from Tuesday’s election.

In the presidential vote, both groups have something to cheer – even though those on the north side are avid supporters of Raila Odinga, while those on the southern corner back his rival, Deputy President William Ruto.

Unofficial media results so far have put the two in a close race, although media have contradicted each other on who has the edge. The conflicting unofficial media tallies along with a long wait for official results – by Friday morning results from only 1.5 % of the vote had been officially released – have been frustrating, people said.

It’s test of people’s patience. But in Eldoret, residents do not want a repeat of the violence that followed Kenya’s disputed 2007 election. The town was at the centre of that unrest, in which at least 1,200 people were killed around the country.

Supporters from each corner sometimes walk to the other to exchange news.

“I support somebody, this guy supports somebody else,” said Mike Kiprop, a secondhand clothes seller standing on the corner dominated by Ruto supporters, pointing at a man next to him.

Many said they distrusted local media outlets because of the slow and conflicting unofficial vote tallies and were skipping the news in favor of in-person discusions with fellow residents.

“At times we are together, at times we are not. At the end of the day, we are Eldoret people. We are friends,” agreed Philip Kichwen.

At another intersection four kilometres (2.5 miles) away, people weighed the merits of Odinga’s promise to give the poorest households 6,000 KES ($50.31) monthly against Ruto’s to empower ordinary entrepreneurs, illustrated by his party’s symbol, the wheelbarrow.

“We don’t want wheelbarrows – we want money! We want the 6,000,” said Bernard Mandahana, a 21-year-old nail technician.

Constant Otenga, wearing a San Francisco 49ers hat, disagreed, saying: “I don’t want money … Teach me how to fish!”

Aside from leading contenders Ruto and Odinga there are two minor candidates scoring very low votes. The winner must take one vote more than 50% of the vote to avoid a run-off.

Despite the wait, there appears to be a high degree of faith in Eldoret in the election process. Out of 20 residents interviewed by Reuters, only one said they did not trust the electoral commission to deliver fair results.

Mary Wangoi, a local elder, said she was happy with the elections so far. She fled Eldoret for neighbouring Uganda following the 2007 post-election violence.

“Now, the democracy is a bit better,” she said. “I’m not fearing anything.”

($1 = 119.2500 Kenyan shillings)

(Reporting by Ayenat Mersie; Editing by Frances Kerry)