People are voting in Kenya’s general election amid fears that the result could trigger communal violence.
President Uhuru Kenyatta called for unity, saying he would accept the result, and urged his rivals to do the same. He said Kenyans should “move forward as one nation”.
Queues at polling stations formed early and some minor stampedes were reported.
The contest pits Mr Kenyatta against his long-time rival, Raila Odinga, and is seen as too close to call.
Mr Kenyatta, the 55-year-old son of Kenya’s founding president, is seeking a second and final term in office.
The final week of campaigning has been marred by the murder of a top election official and claims of vote-rigging.
Long, snaking queues
Chief EU observer Marietje Schaake said polling stations were busy and people were eager to cast their vote.
“Today is a very important day for Kenyans. We hope these elections will be peaceful, credible and transparent,” she said at Nairobi’s Moi Avenue primary school polling station.
Observers say the leading candidates both avoided inflammatory speeches as polling day drew closer.
In 2007, more than 1,100 Kenyans died and 600,000 were displaced after a disputed election – an outcome neither side wants to see repeated.
This time long, snaking queues were seen at some polling stations, and video footage at one showed people injured on the ground after an apparent stampede.
Some polling stations opened late, with operations hampered by heavy rain, the electoral commission reported.
It later announced that voting would be extended in those areas.
But other problems emerged, 25% of polling stations were apparently without mobile phone coverage, meaning that officials would have to drive to the nearest town to send results.
Mr Kenyatta voted at lunchtime in his home town of Gatundu, north of Nairobi, and called for peaceful elections.
“To my competitors, as I have always said, in the event that they lose, let us accept the will of the people. I am willing, myself, to accept the will of the people,” he said in a brief statement.
“Let us pull this country together and let us move forward as one nation.”
Opposition leader Mr Odinga cast his ballot in the Nairobi slum of Kibera.
He addressed the public on Monday, raising fears about vote-rigging and claiming the deployment of at least 150,000 members of the security forces was a ploy to intimidate voters.
However, he congratulated Mr Kenyatta on his campaign, describing him as a “worthy opponent”.
A complex vote
By Dickens Olewe, BBC News, Nairobi
In Westlands Primary School polling station in the capital, Nairobi, where I voted, people started queuing from as early as 02:00 local time (23:00 GMT).
When the gates did not open at 06:00 as scheduled, some people became agitated and some approached journalists to vent their frustrations.
The gates opened at 06:23 and the already impatient crowd broke from their orderly queue to rush into the school compound.
Once in, they stood in different queues that had been set up based on voters’ surnames.
I found myself in the wrong queue so my biometric details were not available in the unique machine used in that stream.
After getting into the right queue, my details were verified and my photo and name were displayed on the machine in a few seconds.
After I voted, my finger was marked with indelible ink. The whole process took about four minutes.
Despite delays and some confusion, the enthusiasm and energy is unmistakable.
Former US President Barack Obama, whose father was born in Kenya, also called for calm.
“The choices you make in the coming days can either set Kenya back or bring it together,” he said in a statement.
“As a friend of the Kenyan people, I urge you to work for a future defined not by fear and division, but by unity and hope.”
Eight presidential candidates are on the ballot on Tuesday, with polls open until 17:00 local time (14:00 GMT).
Kenya’s election in numbers:
- Six separate ballot papers: For president, national assembly, female representatives, governors, senate and county assemblies
- 47 parliamentary seats and 16 senate seats reserved for women
- Eight presidential candidates: President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga are favourites
- Kenyatta beat Odinga in 2013 – their fathers were also political rivals in the 1960s
- A candidate needs 50% plus one vote for first-round victory
- More than 14,000 candidates running across the six elections
- More than 45% of registered voters under 35
- Some 180,000 security officers on duty nationwide in case of trouble
To win outright, a candidate needs 50% plus one vote, and at least 25% of the votes in 24 of Kenya’s 47 counties.
If that threshold is not met, a run-off vote between the top two candidates will be triggered, with the winner requiring a simple majority.
First results are not expected before Wednesday, but it could take three days for a winner to emerge.
Fourth time lucky?
Mr Odinga, 72, has run for president three times and lost each time. President Kenyatta beat him in the last election in 2013, but their rivalry is generations old – their fathers were political opponents in the 1960s.
Mr Kenyatta and his running-mate William Ruto were indicted by the International Criminal Court for their alleged roles in the bloodshed a decade ago. The case ultimately collapsed due to lack of evidence, and after key witnesses died or disappeared.
Hate speech flyers and rhetorical text messages have been circulating, making Kenyans nervous. Some are stockpiling food and water, while police have prepared emergency first aid kits.
Writing from Nairobi, the BBC’s Alastair Leithead says what happens after the election is less about who wins and more about how those who lose take their defeat.
The success of the country’s computerised voting system is key to the process being considered free and fair.
If it fails – as it did in 2013 – the votes will be counted manually and the loser will no doubt challenge the result.