Elections See Kenya on Knife Edge; Families Flee for Fear of Violence

Cape Times (South Africa), July 12, 2017 | Go to article overview

Elections See Kenya on Knife Edge; Families Flee for Fear of Violence


Widespread violence, intimidation displacing victims of the bloody elections a decade ago, counter allegations of rigging, a media under siege and the worst drought in years - Kenya is on a knife edge leading up to the August 8 polls.

Fear has gripped east Africa's largest economy amid indications that history is about to repeat itself. The atmosphere is fraught with tensions. Some 19 million Kenyans are registered to vote for a president, governors, senators, parliamentarians, women representatives and county assembly members.

With just a few weeks remaining, the mention of elections sends shivers down the spine of many still reeling from a disputed election outcome that left more than 1 500 people dead and over 650 000 others displaced.

The skirmishes emanating from the retention of Mwai Kibaki ahead of opposition supremo Raila Odinga would result in the indictment of current incumbent, President Uhuru Kenyatta, by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity. He was eventually cleared.

Kenyatta, who has warned the judiciary against rigging results for the opposition, is seeking a second five-year term. National Super Alliance coalition leader Odinga, who is alleging improper links between the president and firms printing ballots, is in yet another bid for power.

Six other candidates are running.

Historically, politics in Kenya is largely ethnically driven, with voters rallying behind candidates from their group.

An increase in intra-party political violence after the start of party primaries in April has been noted.

Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement has been beset by factionalism, with the worst cases of violence witnessed in Migori and Nairobi.

The majority Jubilee Party's preparations have also been characterised by internal tensions.

In his recent Annual State of National Security Report, Kenyatta disclosed "heightening political temperature has seen the resurgence of criminal gangs, political goons and militias".

He also cited a proliferation of illegal arms and light weapons contributing to banditry and general crime.

Before his death this past weekend, Interior Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Nkaissery, warned that security agents would arrest members of outlawed gangs. …

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