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Kenyans took to twitter in the last days before their election to criticise foreign journalists and NGOs for talking up the potential for violence. There have been multiple fairly scathing comments with the hashtag #TellCNN because of what was perceived to be a sensationalist and ill informed report.
We drove out of Nairobi on Monday morning through near empty streets except for the long lines of voters queueing outside polling stations. We drove down to Machakos where we saw calm and peaceful Kenyans queueing more than a kilometre in one central location and another polling station that was almost empty about a kilometre away. In what became the theme of the day, the dignified determination of Kenyans to vote was leavened by some frustration at the quality of organization.
It has to be said that it is a hugely complex process given that voters are expected to cope with six different ballot papers and ballot boxes: President, Governor, Member of Parliament, Senator, County Women's Representative (one MP elected in each of 47 counties from an all women list) and County Assembly representative. In most polling stations the queues were also divided by where ones first name fits in the alphabet.
From Machakos we travelled over a beautiful hill road towards Kangundo and stopped off at the polling station at Syanthi Primary School where the Presiding officer was surprised to receive foreign observers but nevertheless ready to take down our details and demonstrate how well they were running things. Looking at the biometric testing that was part of the process of getting a ballot paper I had to reflect on the challenges we have failed in Ireland and Scotland.
After Kangundo we made our way back to Nairobi and Embakasi, Buru-Buru and Kibera. The longest queues of the day were at Embakasi and some voters at the front of the queue said they had been waiting seven hours to vote. When I asked them if any people had become discouraged and left without voting they said no, and said the people around them were those who had been there from the beginning. It was one of several moments during the day when I felt humble to be in the presence of people displaying such a calm determination not to have their democracy taken away from them. In Kibera the painted slogans proclaiming peace were everywhere.
On the radio we have heard of four policemen killed in Mombassa but the general picture seems to be one of the voting taking place peacefully despite some frustrations. There seems to be some confidence in what appears to be a rigorous process. Of course the problems started five years ago when the results were announced so nobody is relaxing quite yet. But so far it has been a good day for democracy in Kenya.
Andrew Anderson Deputy Director of Front Line Defenders is currently on mission in Kenya.