The scene at the Kenyan polls: Long waits and half-mile lines


A long line of voters in downtown Nairobi, just before voting is due to close. (AFP/Phil Moore)

Polls in Kenya closed over an hour ago, but thousands of voters are reportedly still queuing up as the country wraps one of its most historic -- and best attended -- elections.

As the Post’s Sudarsan Raghavan reported from Nairobi, observers predict that today’s presidential elections will mark the biggest turnout in Kenya’s history. Millions of voters across the country waited hours in line, some of them waking before dawn to cast ballots.

“Never before have Kenyans turned up in such numbers,” said Prime Minister Raila Odinga, one of two leading candidates. “I’m sure they’re going to vote for change this election.”

While the polls officially closed at 5 p.m. local time, NTV reports they’ll stay open for anyone who lined up before 5.

 

If that’s the case, some polls could stay open for quite a while yet. People on the ground (and in the air) tweeted pictures of extraordinarily long lines shortly before the polls closed. And while Nairobi’s Daily Nation has reported provisional results from some areas, there are still open polls with “long winding queues” in others.

“In Ongata Rongai, there are some winding queues ... [and] the open air market has a crowd of 2,000 voters in a spiral queue,” the paper wrote on its election live-blog shortly after 5. “At St Mary's Catholic in Kiserian, the queue winds up to the road just about 200m [over a tenth-mile] long.”

 

 

Those don’t even compare to photos taken at the height of the day, when observers reported lines more than half a mile long in some areas.

 

 

 

Despite the big crowds and the long waits, Kenya has seen little of the violence that marred its 2007 election, when Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s loss sparked a bitter ethnic conflict that left 1,000 people dead. Early clashes between police officers and secessionists killed 12 people, but were quickly quelled. Both leading candidates have urged their supporters to keep the peace.

But as the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse observed in a tweet, that tension likely won't end until after the voters go home and their votes are tallied.

 

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Caitlin Dewey · March 4, 2013