Saturday, December 29

The Samuel Kivuitu Show

Kenya's elections were Thursday. They're still counting the votes. Challenger Raila Odinga is ahead in the count and his party declared him the winner earlier today. But there still a few constituencies where results haven't yet come in, and the government says it's confident it will win. Here's the latest from Reuters.

Meanwhile, Odinga's supporters have gotten pretty upset about how long it's taken for the results to come in, and there has been some degree of violent protest in most of Kenya's major cities, the main flash points so far being Nairobi's slums and Odinga's stronghold of Kisumu in the West.

For the most part, election coverage on TV has been pretty dull, with stations spending hours on end with full screen displays of results from parliamentary contests set to elevator music. They have news crawlers, and they work fine, I'm not sure why they don't use them more. The main break from this has been a series of press conferences by the electoral commissioners where they read out, in full, the parliamentary and presidential results from each constituency as it comes in. Again, the crawler would be fine here.

The talking heads and footage of protests are worth watching. They also seem to be doing more correspondent reports now, and the stations have done a pretty good job at condemning the violence while also questioning why the electoral commission is taking so long. Though I haven't been watching the state broadcaster KBC which has come under fire for favoring the government. NTV has been getting a lot of mileage out of a pretty impressive clip today of a police officer speaking to a crowd of demonstrators in one of the slums telling them to stay calm and not jeopardize all the progress the country has made in recent years, and the crowd ends up clapping for him. Certainly more encouraging to the tear gas and warning shots seen elsewhere.

As the day has progressed, the semi-permanent electoral commission press conference has turned into the Samuel Kivuitu show. The head of the Electoral Commission is pretty hilarious, his proclamations peppered by whatever witticisms and tangents pop into his head. In lamenting the slow pace of the results, he spent a good half minute defining the word 'fugitive', before warning polling officers that they risk becoming some if they don't get results in. He also spent some time talking about how much the Chinese like business...Though some people are getting fed up with the casual attitude of the man who is in many respects the most powerful man in Kenya at the moment.

Now the conference has morphed into a rowdy town-hall of sorts, with the mike passing between political leaders and observers voicing their grievances.

According to the latest figures, Odinga's lead has shrunk, he's now ahead 3.88m to 3.84m. Some level of violence was almost a certainty, especially if Kibaki won. But I think it's fair to say that with all the delay, if Kibaki ends up being announced the winner - rightly or wrongly - things could get uglier.

I'll be getting on a plane to London in the morning, but local blogger Kenyan Pundit has been providing regular updates.

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