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Polls open in Kenya amid appeals for peaceful, credible election

NAIROBI – Kenyans arrived early at the polls overnight, waiting in lines in the dark to cast their vote in today’s national general election. Polling places officially opened at 6 a.m.

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed for calm and unity in a televised statement on Monday night, urging voters to participate while rejecting intimidation, violence and “any attempt to divide us.” Kenyatta asked again that after Kenyans cast their vote, they go home to their neighbors in peace without their voting decisions changing the way they care for each other.

“Shake their hand, share a meal and tell them ‘let us wait for the results’ for Kenya will be here long after this general election,” Kenyatta said. The Jubilee Party leader faces main challenger Raila Odinga of the opposition Nasa coalition in a tight race, along with several other presidential candidates.

The African Union, in a joint statement issued along with international observers from African organizations, the European Union and the United States, also appealed to a tense Kenya to ensure peaceful elections. Their sentiments were echoed by former U.S. President Barack Obama, whose father was Kenyan.

“I urge all Kenyans to work for an election — and aftermath — that is peaceful and credible, reinforcing confidence in your new Constitution and the future of your country,” Obama said in a statement. “Any disputes around the election should be resolved peacefully, through Kenya’s institutions and the rule of law.”

The winning presidential candidate must cross a vote threshold of 50 percent, with at least 25 percent of the vote in half of the country’s 47 counties. A runoff between the top two candidates determines the winner if necessary.

Image: Government of Kenya

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