[QODLink]
Africa
Violence as Kenyans prepare to vote
Mob kills police accused of planning to rig tight elections in favour of president.
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2008 09:19 GMT
All but one opinion poll since September have put Odinga, left, ahead of Kibaki [Reuters]
Mobs in Kenya's opposition heartland have killed at least three policemen just hours before the country goes to the polls.
 
The officers were accused of taking part in a plan to rig Thursday's elections in favour of Mwai Kibaki, the president.
Ten other officers were hurt in western Nyanza province, homeland of Raila Odinga, the challenger and opposition leader, the authorities said on Wednesday.
 
He has held a narrow lead over Kibaki in opinion polls ahead of a vote expected to be the east African nation's closest ever.
Local broadcaster KTN and Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had accused the government of disguising police as party agents to carry out fraud at polling stations.
 
Kenyan elections


In video: Tribal tensions
In video: Crucial Muslim vote
Voices: Stepping up to vote

When buses carrying officers arrived in different locations of Nyanza from Nairobi, crowds responded angrily and threw stones, accusing them of a plot to rig the polls, witnesses said.
 
"They started attacking them. One died on the spot, another on the way to hospital," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said of the fracas late on Tuesday in one location, Mbita.
 
The other confirmed death was on Wednesday morning.
 
A media source in Nyanza, who asked not to be named, said there were in fact four deaths, while an election official told Reuters, on condition of anonymity, nine were feared killed.
 
Presidential denial
 
With Thursday's presidential and parliamentary vote seen as a big test of Kenya's democratic credentials in a continent plagued by election controversies, Kibaki denied the rigging accusations and urged Kenyans to stay calm.
 
"Let us all embrace peace and let fair play, honesty and democracy prevail," he said in a statement on Wednesday.
 
And a government spokesman accused the media of fomenting the violence by peddling propaganda.
 
"The mobs killing people in Nyanza are doing so after ... alarmist and unsubstantiated rigging media claims," Alfred Mutua said.
 
Opposition supporters accuse the police of
trying to rig the vote in Kibaki's favour [AFP]
The spokesman said anti-police violence was spreading.
 
"In Nyanza, policemen are being hunted and killed... We are shocked that people have set up road blocks and are removing people not from there from buses."
 
One Nyanza resident, who identified himself only as Peter, confirmed he had been among a crowd attacking officers.
 
"Over 20 administration police officers in civilian clothes arrived late on Tuesday in Migori on two buses. We immediately suspected them and started beating them," he told Reuters.
 
KTN has been running images of civilian buses taking police out of a Nairobi training college under cover of darkness.
 
It quoted sources saying the police were stripped of usual ID and given letters accrediting them as agents of Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) to access voting stations.
 
Odinga said "they were issued each with 1,000 pre-marked ballot papers to be stuffed by them".
 
"I've appealed to President Kibaki to prevail on his agents against election rigging acts that could plunge this country into bloodshed," he added.
 
Kibaki said his government had deployed 65,000 security personnel across Kenya to ensure security and "we should desist from harassing or obstructing them".
 
Close race
 
Kenyans have never seen an election campaign as close as this one.
 
In 2002, the country experienced a rarity in African politics: the broadly peaceful transition of power from one "big man" ruler, Daniel arap Moi, to another, Kibaki.
 
Since coming to power in a coalition of big men the economy has had a strong 5 per cent annual growth on average and Kibaki has introduced free primary education.
 
He also has the support of his economically powerful Kikuyu tribe, Kenya's largest.
 
But while Kenya is east Africa's economic powerhouse, more than half the population live in poverty and Kibaki is accused of not effectively tackling issues such as corruption and poor infrastructure.
 
Odinga emerged after the anti-Kibaki orange
movement splintered [Reuters]
Many say he has an image problem, declining all media interviews on the campaign trail.
 
The big men allied to him when he swept to power broke away and their orange movement hit the president with a landslide defeat in a constitutional referendum three years ago.
 
And Odinga has emerged as the frontrunner after the orange movement splintered and the big men went their separate ways.
 
Odinga has the ardent backing of his western Luo community, but has also garnered support from other ethnic groups who think the Kikuyus have had it too good under Kibaki.
 
All but one of the opinion polls since September have put Odinga, a 62-year-old businessman and former political prisoner, a few points ahead of Kibaki, 76.
 
Kibaki has said he will step down, and retire to his highland farm, if he loses. But analysts believe those around him might not be so willing to relinquish power.
 
Some 14 million of Kenya's 36 million people are eligible to vote from 6am (0300 GMT) to 6pm on Thursday.
 
Official results are expected from Friday.
Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Muslim volunteers face questioning and threat of arrest, while aid has been disrupted or blocked, charities say.
Six months on, outrage and sorrow over the mass schoolgirl abduction has disappeared - except for families in Nigeria.
ISIL combatants seeking an 'exit strategy' from Mideast conflict need positive reinforcement back home, analysts say.
European nation hit by a wave of Islamophobia as many young fighters join ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Featured
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Since she was 16-years-old, Scottish Nationalist Party's Sturgeon has strove for independence from the UK.
Armed group's ransom success with German hostages marks a re-emergence, as authorities investigate ISIL links.
Western nations are moving into the resource-rich country after decades of disinterest, challenging China's interests.