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At least 15 people have killed in election day violence in Kenya, but that hasn't stopped millions of citizens from waiting for hours to vote in the nation's first presidential election since 2007. Gangs of men affiliated with a regional secessionist movement descended on a handful of polling places with guns and machetes, sparking battles with police that left both officers and gang members dead. At least 20 others were injured after a stampede at a crowded polling station south of the capital of Nairobi.

Still, given the outrageous violence that occurred during the last Kenyan election, today's relative calm and long lines were an encouraging sign for pro-democratic forces. The disputed results of the last election led to widespread sectarian violence that killed more than 1,200 people and displaced hundredes of thousands. 

The new poll attacks are being blamed on the Mombasa Republican Council, a secessionist group calling for city of Mobasa and it surrounding region to declare independence from greater Kenya.

Kenyans look at the body of a member of the Mombasa Republican Council MRC who was shot dead at Mishomoroni area of the Kenyan Coast March 4, 2013 REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

Despite the violence, voters turned out in droves for an election that they hope will bring them better economic times and a bigger role in the world community. The country is beset by violent conflicts on all sides—from Uganada and the Congo in the west, Somalia to the east, to Ethiopia and South Sudan to the north—as is constantly at risk from being dragged in a wider regional war, in addition in fierce ethnic tensions within their own borders.

No winner (or perfect cliché) has yet emerged, but the two main candidates are dynastic heirs Raila Odinga, the current prime minister, and his premier, Uhuru Kenyatta. Both their fathers served in the executive branch after fighting for Kenya's independence in the 1960s. Kenyatta, whose father was the first president of Kenya, still faces charges before the International Criminal Court for his role in the violence that took place after the last election in 2007.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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