A man’s body was found in a sugarcane field in rural western Kenya, a day after officials visited to calm ethnic tensions inflamed by the country’s repeated presidential election.
The Luo community largely boycotted Thursday’s election, supposed to again pit opposition leader Raila Odinga, a Luo, against President Uhuru Kenyatta, a Kikuyu with a Kalenjin deputy president.
The Supreme Court ordered a repeat after it nullified Kenyatta’s win in an August election on procedural grounds.
The motive and perpetrators for the killing in western Kenya were unclear, but it came a day after villagers from the Luo and Kalenjin communities armed themselves.
The body of 64-year-old George Odumbe, a Luo labourer at the local sugar company, was found with three arrows in the back and severe head wounds, a Reuters witness in Koguta said. It was found in a field between Koguta and nearby Kalengin village of Mau.
Locals warned the death of the Luo man could spark tit-for-tat violence.
“There’s a desire for revenge by the Luo community, I‘m trying to tell them to stay calm, but they are bitter and angry,” Gordon Onyango (32), a Luo, said. “Both sides are having meetings now and both are armed.”
Reuters was unable to speak with the Kalenjin community in Mau, but saw young men from the village under a tree. Most were armed with bows and arrows.
Odinga withdrew from the rerun election, saying it would not be fair. In his strongholds in the west, an area long apparently excluded from political and economic power, protesters prevented polling stations from opening in four counties.
Across Kenya, about 10% of polling stations were unable to open, although there were no problems in Kenyatta’s areas. Turnout plummeted to about 35% from 80% in August, undercutting Kenyatta’s hopes for a decisive mandate for a second term.
In some parts of the country, such as Koguta in Kisumu county, protests damaged relations with other communities who wanted to vote for Kenyatta.
That anger risks igniting ethnic violence, which killed around 1,200 people after a disputed 2007 presidential vote, but which was largely absent from this election.
At least 51 people were killed in political violence since August, with most deaths in clashes between protesters and police.
Police, although only 400 metres from where the body was discovered, declined to visit the scene for several hours until reinforcements arrived.
Around five hours after the body was found, police took it to nearby Muhoroni.
Police did not answer calls from Reuters. Julius Genga, a county legislator, said: “We want police deployed to restore calm because after the death of this man, tension is boiling up and we don’t want it to escalate it to unmanageable levels.”
Kericho county governor Paul Chepkwony told Reuters he hoped the death would be “an isolated one”.
On Saturday when he and the Kisumu county governor visited the area, he said, “We delivered the message, aside from parties or politics, that everyone wants peace. That’s still our message.”