Kenyans vote, rich Kenyan Asians take holidays outside the country


NAIROBI, Kenya (eTN) – Fearing violence in the voting process, Kenyans of Asian origin left their country for neighboring East African states in their specially-designed holiday to avoid tribal clashes likely to erupt in various parts of the country.

Kenyan Asians took their security-designed holidays in neighboring countries of Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda waiting for preliminary and full election results to be announced starting today up to next week.

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Driving in hired buses, vans and family cars, Kenyan Asians crossed the Kenya and Tanzania border point of Namanga for Tanzanian northern tourist city of Arusha, about 250 kilometers South of Nairobi, while others from the Kenyan coastal city of Mombassa flocked to the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salaam.

Kenyan Asians and their families crossed the border between Monday and Wednesday this week, and headed for key Tanzanian wildlife parks of Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire for a security holiday, fearing violence in the election process.

Some were quoted raising their fear on possible tribal clashes in central parts of Kenya where 700 people were killed during the campaign run ups. Rich Kenyan Asians have been a target to past election violence marked by robberies and killings.

But the Thursday voting process went smoothly here in Nairobi and life in this Kenyan capital remain calm and peaceful, though some reports from western parts said there were pockets of clashes between followers of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and his closer rival Raila Odinga.

Three policemen were killed in Nyanza Province in Western Kenya Tuesday on allegations of taking a plan to rig the votes in favor of President Mwai Kibaki. The area is a political stronghold of Mr. Raila Odinga.

Strong and full armed police units have been deployed in the city, with tight security from other state organs. Christmas went normal with foreign tourists enjoying their holidays in big hotels and visiting Kenyan wildlife parks as usual.

Foreigners in Nairobi including travelers on transit to other parts of East Africa and the world enjoyed their stay in Nairobi without feelings of the ongoing election despite the voting fever among the Kenyans residing in the capital.

President Kibaki voted in his hometown of Othaya, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital, and told reporters of his confidence to lead this African nation for another five years.

“Let us work hard and finish the work in the remaining five years,” Kibaki said soon after casting his vote with his wife and three children. He expressed his deep intention and confidence to serve Kenyans in the next five years to finish his constitutional term in office.

Chief of the European Union election monitor Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said that voters turned out in great numbers. More than 14 million Kenyans are eligible to elect the president, 210 members of parliament and more than 2,000 local councilors.

President Kibaki took office in 2002 after the former President Daniel arap Moi was barred by the constitution from extending his 24 years in power. Moi won in 1992 and 1997 in elections marked by allegations of vote-rigging.

The December 27 presidential election was strongly under tough competition between opposition candidate Raila Odinga, a former cabinet minister and supporter of President Mwai Kibaki, and Kalonzo Musyoka, a former cabinet minister.

In Nairobi, the US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, voiced his concern over possible violence in some parts of Kenya.