Kenyans flee Nairobi as tension grows over uncertainty of high-stakes polls

Kenyans are not leaving anything to chance amid fears of a possible poll violence

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Kenyans from all walks of life have been flocking to bus stations in Nairobi  as the mass exodus in preparation for the elections on August 8 continues.

Major bus stations were over the weekend awash with passengers as they jostled for space in the few available buses.

A spot check by Business Insider SSA at the Machakos and Athusi bus stations in downtown Nairobi noted a huge number of travellers ready to travel to their ancestral homes to vote or avoid any potential violence.

“I am not taking any chances this time round given the violent scenes I witnessed during the aftermath of the 2007 elections,” said Esther Nasimiyu as she boarded a Busia bound-bus with her 3 children.

Kenyans will on August 8 take part in one of the most tightly contested elections in the country’s history and some of the commuters fear that the election outcome might trigger ethnic violence between supporters of rival parties.

Some of the travellers interviewed by Business Insider SSA said that they were taking their kids to their ancestral home as a precautionary measure should violence erupt.

“I will vote in Nairobi but will take my kids to Makueni County in the event that there is violence. It will be much easier to safeguard myself when they are not around,” said Ann Mwende.

High fares

Bus companies took advantage of the situation to hike fares much to the complaints of the commuters. For instance, a trip to Busia County costs Kshs 800 but over the past few days the price has surged to Kshs2.500.

Transport companies said twice as many 65-seater buses had left Nairobi's biggest bus station, Machakos.

Nickson, a bus tout, stated that passengers were not deterred by the high prices as long as they reached their rural homes safely.

“We’ve recorded a sharp increase in number of passengers plying this route over the weekend compared to the past few months. Most of them have fled the capital to await the results from their rural homes,” noted Nickson as he stacked up a few mattresses atop a bus.

Election uncertainty

Anxiety over the Aug. 8 polls, which come a decade since 1,200 people were killed in ethnic unrest after a disputed election, increased last week with the brutal murder of a senior election commission official.

The government has acknowledged that many people were nervous but stated it has marshaled 180,000 personnel from various security agencies to man the elections and to forestall any related violence.

Even then, Kenyans called for peace in the wake of the high-stakes polls.

“We should let peace prevail during the elections and not allow politicians to divide us along ethnic lines for their own benefit,” said Michael Mulwa, a passenger travelling to Sultan Hamud town in Makueni county.

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