Tensions in Kenya over election results
( AP ) - Thousands of people waved machetes, looted shops and burned down homes on Saturday as tensions flared over the slow return of results from the closest presidential election in Kenya's history.
Millionaire opposition candidate Raila Odinga appeared to be leading the race, but only partial and unofficial tallies have been released from Thursday's vote. By Saturday afternoon, the Electoral Commission said Odinga was leading with 3.7 million votes to President Mwai Kibaki's 3.4 million with 159 of the 210 constituencies counted.
In Nairobi's Kibera slum, Odinga's main constituency, young men with fingers still stained with voting ink were shouting "No Raila, No Kenya!" - an ominous call to declare him the winner.
Hamisi Noor, 22, standing in front of his burnt-out home in Kibera, said a crowd threatened him with machetes before setting his home on fire and cutting his father across the face.
Noor, a member of Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, said his assailants belonged to Odinga's Luo tribe. "I don't know who they were," said Noor, his trousers covered in blood and mud. "But they were Luos."
In the capital, about 6 miles outside the deserted city center, police blocked off streets as young men climbed up billboards to rip down Odinga posters.
"Kibaki come back!" the men shouted as they waved machetes and sticks.
The election marks the first time an incumbent has faced a credible challenge in Kenya's four decades of independence from Britain. The race focused on corruption, with both candidates vowing to end the graft and tribal favoritism that has tainted Kenyan politics for years.
Violence was a major concern in the run-up to the election, and several diplomats have expressed concern that a narrow victory on either side could lead to rioting by those who do not accept or trust the results.
The voting was generally orderly, and no major disruptions were reported. But as the results trickled in slowly, suspicions about rigging flared.
Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement party said the government was deliberately delaying results. The police appealed for calm.
"We'd like the ECK (Electoral Commission of Kenya) to announce the results in order to ensure that the political temperature does not go up," said Joseph Nyagah, an ODM official.
About 20 miles outside Nairobi, hundreds of people massed along a main highway.
"They are looting houses and stoning cars," Irungu Wakogi, a witness, told The Associated Press by telephone.
In Kisumu, some 185 miles from Nairobi, shops were being looted and the streets were clogged with protesters.
"People are demonstrating because of the delayed announcement," said Grace Kaindi, a police official in the city.
If Kibaki loses, he will be Kenya's first sitting president ousted at the ballot box. The 76-year-old has been credited with helping boost this East African nation's economy, with a growth rate that is among the highest in Africa and a booming tourism industry.
But his anti-graft campaign has largely been seen as a failure, and the country still struggles with tribalism and poverty.
Odinga, a 62-year-old former political prisoner, promised change and help for the poor. His main constituency is Kibera, home to at least 700,000 people who live in extreme poverty.
Kibaki won by a landslide victory in 2002, ending 24 years in power by Daniel arap Moi, who was constitutionally barred from extending his term. Moi's blanket use of patronage resulted in crippling mismanagement and a culture of corruption that plunged Kenya into an economic crisis.
Voters also were electing 210 members of parliament, with results suggesting Kenyans were aching for change. They kicked out some of the nation's political old guard, including the vice president and three key Kibaki allies linked to Anglo Leasing, the largest financial scam under the president's term.
Also voted out was 2004 Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, whose popularity as a politician never caught on here.