Nairobi’s streets are almost empty and eerily quiet
The polls have closed, most business premises remain closed, and the streets of Nairobi are clear and quiet – it’s very unusual for any of Nairobi’s streets to be dotted with only a handful of cars – and the silence is loud and eerie, as if the tension behind Kenyans’ locked doors is manifesting itself in an absence of sound on the streets.
Kenyans have retreated to their homes to await the results of one of the most expensive and complicated general election in the country’s history.
The race attracted a total of eight presidential candidates, but has, in reality, been a two-horse race.
One of the strong aspirants, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the son of Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and is facing charges at the International Criminal Court, as is his running mate William Ruto.
The other strong contestant, Raila Odinga, the son of Kenya's first vice president, is an incumbent, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya. He has served a jail term of six months on treason charges and nine years in detention. He is a self proclaimed nationalist, and popularly known for his infamous Kibaki Tosha remarks during the 2002 polls.
So, it’s a race between the son of the first president versus the son of the first vice president of Kenya.
The mythical tyranny of numbers has played out. Uhuru has managed to garner the majority of the votes in Rift Valley and Central Provinces despite both the regions putting forward very strong presidential candidates, namely Peter Kenneth and Martha Karua. Raila Odinga on the other hand has managed to secure the votes from Nyanza Province and Eastern Province, his running mate’s backyard. All of which indicates that Kenyans have not yet let go of voting along tribal lines.
In the informal settlement of Mathare, the air is tense due to the delayed tallying process, despite the contingent of policemen deployed last night around the area’s tallying centre (St. Teresa’s Primary School).
Residents, meanwhile, have stocked up on food items, just in case violence erupts once the results are announced.
Juddy Kamaitha, a resident of Mathare, says shops have run out of dry food following heavy shopping by area residents.
“I have stocked my shop with over 20 kilograms of maize flour and two Kilograms of beans to ensure that I do not starve in case the situation gets out of hand,” she said.
In Kibera, people were spotted in small groups, but everyone is talking in low voices, wary of being heard by the “unknown enemy”.
“You cannot tell what anyone is saying, because no one wants to discuss politics loudly now,” says Jane Atieno a resident of Kibera.
In this neighbourhood, fingers are crossed in the hope that the long wait of the election results will soon be over and that “their” candidate is be declared the winner. The question everyone is afraid to answer right now is what happens if their candidate is not declared the winner.
The silence and calmness on the Kenyan streets is in sharp contrast to what’s happening on social media platforms. Kenyans are the continent's second most active tweeters, and what most have been tweeting about is their disappointment with the negative coverage of the elections by the international media.
#SomeoneTellCNN and #TweetLikeAForeignJournalist are two of the hash tags that Kenyans came up with to mock the media. The disappointment is justified, especially as The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the local media houses have invested heavily to ensure that this time round, Kenyans get the facts in real time.
Experts are all over the local television channels explaining to the always hungry-for-news Kenyans the provisional results being relayed by the electoral body.
For the better part of Tuesday and Wednesday, Jubilee Coalition flag bearer Uhuru Kenyatta took an early lead, beating his closest competitor Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) Raila Odinga.
But though closely contested, an elephant appeared in the room in the form of rejected votes.
By 10pm last night, the number of rejected votes had risen to a significant 330,000, which is more votes than had been counted for the six candidates trailing Uhuru and Raila, which prompted Washington Makodingo, an analyst on a local television, to describe the rejected votes as the third presidential candidate.
The decision to include the rejected votes provoked a sharp reaction from Kenyatta’s Jubilee Coalition team, who say the inclusion would close the gap between the Raila and Uhuru completely.
We know who Western countries would prefer to win. Not hard to guess when some have openly stated that they will only maintain the [minimum] necessary contact if Kenyatta wins.
But who actually gets to be the country’s fourth president is anybody’s guess right now. Kenyan can barely wait to find out, but wait we must. So this is what we’re all doing.