Hubby and I returned from our holiday in Bahrain on Thursday just in time, we thought, to find out the results of the elections. While still in the airport, we heard that there had been problems at some of the polls, with people’s names missing from the roster including presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s. Due to this, we were told, some polls had to stay open longer and results probably wouldn’t be available until Friday.
Since it was popularly believed that the results of the elections might not be accepted terribly well, Hubby and I stayed at home on Friday and enjoyed some of our yummier shopping treats from our vacation. Due to our depressing lack of local television stations (darn DSTv), we relied on updates from BBC, CNN, and surprisingly from Al Jazeera which has had the most incredibly comprehensive updates.
I should note here that these updates have been hard to come by on international news channels due to Bhutto’s assassination on Thursday. Her death has been the primary story on every news outlet, making channel surfing a necessity. That evening, we were told that results would definitely be released on Saturday.
Despite any worries about the elections, Hubby and I had plans for Saturday that included a nice lunch out and food shopping since the apartment was devoid of any nourishment that didn’t come in potato chip form. But our day didn’t go quite as planned.
You’ve all read my rants about the crazy traffic in Nairobi so you’ll share my sense of eeriness when Hubby and I were greeted with empty streets on Saturday afternoon. There were no matatus, no traffic jams: there was quite simply no one out. Shops that are normally doing a brisk business on a Saturday were closed -- from Triangle Market to shops at ABC Centre. Those shops that were open were quickly running out of goods to sell – we were unable to find several common vegetables at Zucchini.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Our initial choice of shopping venue was Junction. I wish I had photos to share with you of what was going on there but both Hubby and I felt that a camera might only have made the situation worse. (The picture above is from Reuters.) Both sets of gates to the shopping centre had been closed and were being manned by several guards. From the vantage point of our car, we could see that guards were standing at regular intervals inside the parking lot and were ready to take on any trouble.
Trouble that Hubby and I had to drive through – two or three dozen men and boys armed with clubs and heavy branches were barricading the road and banging on the gates. We were waved through thanks either to our mzungu-ness or our red diplomatic plates (or a combination of both) but some people were not as lucky. The news later that day reported that cars in other areas were stoned and attacked.
Riots sparked throughout the day on Saturday everywhere from Kibera to nearby our own area. Kenyans were justifiably upset that the results of the election had not yet been released. It didn’t help that press reports stated that both men (Kibaki and Odinga) claimed they had won and the other man had somehow cheated. Indeed, in one constituency, the Elections Commission of Kenya (ECK) reported that voter turnout added up to 115 percent of registered voters! Due to all of this unrest and mischief, the ECK opted to delay the results until noon today.
Well it is almost 4:00 p.m. and we still do not have any official results. Some people are staying inside, hoping that everything (somehow) miraculously calms down when the results are announced but are preparing for the worst. Others are determinedly going on with their lives, having parties and going on with life as usual.
Hubby and I are doing all of the above – watching the news religiously, making hummus with a new Jamie Oliver recipe, and streaming radio reports as they become available. So keep reading and I’ll try to keep you all updated as best I can. In the meantime, let’s all hope that calm and peace prevail here in Kenya.