Kenyan police clashed with protesters in opposition strongholds Thursday as the nation voted for a new president for the second time in three months.
The main opposition candidate had urged his supporters to boycott the latest race, reflecting bitter divisions in the country.
In the western town of Kisumu, police used tear gas and water cannons on opposition supporters and roads remained barricaded.
Voting materials arrived, but electoral commission officials could not be found at some polling stations. Many Kisumu residents are staying away from the polls as a protest.
Voting appeared peaceful in most of the country. In the capital city of Nairobi, security was tight as soldiers equipped with long guns and tear gas canisters hovered near polling stations. In the Kibera slum area, the main opposition stronghold in the city, protesters pelted police with stones as officers fired live rounds in the air as a warning to disperse.
“There is no voting here, leave us alone,” protesters shouted. “No Raila no peace!”
Josephine Wambui, 93, woke up at dawn to wait for her son to take her to the polling station in Kiambu. She said she’s voted in every election since Kenya gained independence in 1963, and this will be no different.
“I am happy to vote. It is just a matter of coming to the polls and exercising my right,” she said. “I have a rightful civic duty to perform.”
The opposition boycott is expected to hand victory to President Uhuru Kenyatta, but in a poll that will be affected by low turnout.
The election comes after weeks of political twists and turns.
Last month, the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of annulling Kenyatta’s August 8 victory after opposition leader Raila Odinga said the results were electronically tampered with. The court ordered Thursday’s rerun.
While the high court ruling appeared to vindicate Odinga, the opposition leader dropped out of the race this month, saying the electoral commission had not implemented reforms.
Odinga urged his supporters to boycott the election, raising the possibility that millions will shun the outcome. A day before the election, activists made a last-ditch effort to stop the vote.
The political uncertainty has left residents of the east African economic powerhouse on edge. The election has become so divisive, it revived fears of violence like the country experienced in 2007 and 2008, when at least 1,000 people were killed.
After Kenyatta was declared the winner in the August vote, sporadic clashes erupted in some areas, killing at least 24 people.-CNN