Kenyan opposition supporters clashed with police and threw up burning barricades Thursday to challenge the legitimacy of an election rerun likely to return Uhuru Kenyatta as president of East Africa's chief economic and political powerhouse.
In the western city of Kisumu, stone-throwing youths heeding opposition leader Raila Odinga's call for a voter boycott were met by live rounds, tear gas and water cannon.
One man was shot dead and three others injured during protests in the western city of Kisumu, as opposition supporters try to stop yesterday's elections, a nurse at the main government hospital said.
"A young man, aged 17 or 18, was brought in heavily bleeding. We were giving him blood but he succumbed," said Henry Omosa, head nurse for casualty unit. The young man was one of four people admitted to the hospital with gunshot wounds that occurred during clashes between police and protesters, he said.
In Kibera and Mathare, two volatile Nairobi slums, riot police patrolled. Protesters set fires in Kibera early in the morning. Nearly 50 people have been killed by security forces since the original August vote that Kenyatta won but which was annulled by the Supreme Court due to procedural irregularities. The election is being closely watched across East Africa, which relies on Kenya as a trade and logistics hub, and in the West, which considers Nairobi a bulwark against Islamist militancy in Somalia and civil conflict in South Sudan and Burundi.
While tensions simmered in some opposition strongholds, in other areas the situation was calm.
Interior minister Fred Matiang'i told Citizen TV that polling stations opened in over 90 percent of the country, including Kiambu, where Kenyatta cast his ballot.
"We are requesting them [voters] humbly that they should turn out in large numbers," Kenyatta said after voting. "We're tired as a country of electioneering and I think its time to move forward."
A decade after 1,200 people were killed over another disputed election, many Kenyans are braced for trouble although on the eve of the vote Odinga backed off previous calls for protests and urged supporters to stay out of the way of police.
"We advise Kenyans who value democracy and justice to hold vigils and prayers away from polling stations, or just stay at home," he said in English.
Odinga's National Super Alliance coalition, which has attacked polling staff in the run-up to the vote, is likely to argue that the lack of open polling stations shows that the re-run is bogus.
The head of the election commission said last week he could not guarantee a free and fair vote, citing interference from politicians and threats of violence against his colleagues. One election commissioner has quit and fled the country.
Kenyatta, the U.S.-educated son of Kenya's founding father, says the vote is legitimate. In central Nairobi, where support for the two protagonists is more mixed, early turnout was significantly down on August.