Kenyan woman gives birth at polling station, returns to cast vote

COMPILED FROM WIRE SERVICES
NAIROBI, Kenya
Published 08.08.2017 15:57
Updated 08.08.2017 15:59
Voters wait in line to cast their votes in general elections at a polling station in Iloodokilani in Kajiado County, some 100km south of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, August 8, 2017. (EPA Photo)
Voters wait in line to cast their votes in general elections at a polling station in Iloodokilani in Kajiado County, some 100km south of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, August 8, 2017. (EPA Photo)

Some Kenyans braced long queues, others rain and chilly weather, but one woman gave birth Tuesday while in line to vote in general elections and still made sure to vote.

A heavily pregnant Paulina Chemanang was feeling fine as she left to vote early at a polling station in remote West Pokot country, she told local radio Capital FM.

"I had no labor pains, and they just came as soon as I arrived here. I was not feeling anything since yesterday," she said.

Shortly after she arrived, she went into labor, and, with the assistance of bystanders, gave birth to a baby girl while still at the polling station.

After a trip to a local health clinic, she returned and cast her ballot.

"Now I am happy, because I have given birth and I have voted," she told the radio station. "Having given birth at a polling station is a blessing to me and I thank God."

Kenyans on Tuesday voted in large numbers in an election that pits President Uhuru Kenyatta against challenger Raila Odinga in this East African economic hub known for its relative, long-term stability as well as the ethnic allegiances that shadow its democracy.

Voters formed long lines at many polling stations before dawn, waiting for the chance to cast ballots in the tightly contested race for the presidency as well as for more than 1,800 elected positions, including governors, legislative representatives and county officials.

A key concern was whether Kenya would echo its 2013 election, a mostly peaceful affair despite opposition allegations of vote-tampering, or the 2007 election, which led to violence fueled by ethnic divisions that killed more than 1,000 people.

Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of Kenya's first president after independence from British colonial rule, campaigned on a record of major infrastructure projects, many backed by China, and claimed strong economic growth.

Odinga, 72, is also the son of a leader of the independence struggle and has cast himself as a champion of the poor and a harsh critic of endemic corruption in many state institutions. However, many voters are expected to vote along ethnic lines. President Kenyatta is widely seen as the candidate of the Kikuyu people, the country's largest ethnic group. Odinga is associated with the Luo voting bloc, which has never produced a head of state.

More than 300 people, including ethnic Maasai draped in traditional red blankets, waited for hours in the dark before polling station opened in the Rift Valley town of Il Bissil. Kenyan television also showed long lines of voters in the port city of Mombasa.

Fears of violence were increased by the murder of an electoral official in charge of technology days ahead of the election. The election commission has said that about 25 percent of polling stations won't have network coverage, meaning officials will have to move to find a better signal and transmit results by satellite telephones. By law, election officials have up to a week to announce results, though many analysts believe the outcome of the presidential race will be declared far sooner, possibly within one or two days.

The winner of the presidential race must get more than 50 percent of the votes as well as one-quarter or more votes in at least 24 of Kenya's 47 counties, according to election officials. If the front-runner falls short of those benchmarks, the two top contenders will contest a run-off vote.

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