31 July 2017

Kenya Fears Outburst of Election Violence

Photo: African Media Agency
Local elections for powerful elected governors are likely to be bitterly contested.

After a top Kenyan election official was tortured and killed with just over a week to go until the elections, many fear more violence could be on the horizon. Kenyan elections have turned violent in the past.

An electoral commission official who went missing over the weekend was found dead, an electoral commission chairman said on Monday.

"This is a brutal murder of our employee and we are demanding to know who killed him and why," said Wafula Chebukati, who helped identify the body of Christopher Msando.

"We are demanding government provide security to all IEBC [electoral commission] staff," he added.

Msando's death has fueled fears that the East African nation could see another wave of violence in the run-up to the August 8 elections. Kenyans will head to the polls to elect a new president, lawmakers and local representatives.

"His death is very unfortunate and it's coming at a very critical time," security analyst George Musamali told DW.

"It's going to cause a lot of tension in the country, because temperatures are already hot," he added.

Closing loopholes to stop voter fraud

Msando had been in charge of overseeing information technology systems to help reduce the chances of voter fraud. He had tried to reassure voters that the election would not be tampered with.

Msando reportedly helped close loopholes that could have been used to manipulate vote tallies. He was also expected to lead a test run of the voting system on Monday, but it was suspended after news of his death broke.

The opposition claims President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to rig the elections - which Kenyatta denies. Both sides have accused the other of underhanded tactics in the run-up to the polls, with the president saying opposition leader Raila Odinga is trying to divide the nation and provoke violence.

Attack on Kenyatta's running mate

Just a few days ago, the home of Kenyatta's running mate and Deputy President William Ruto was attacked by a man wielding a machete. Ruto was not home at the time. The man reportedly attacked a guard at the gate, taking his gun which he then used to kill another police guard. The attacker was then killed by police.

Kenya was shaken by an outburst of violence in 2007 - over 1,000 people were killed.

Election observers like Yustas Kinyua say the situation gives reason to be concerned - especially if leaders continue to trade accusations.

"When it comes to violence, according to ELOG [a coalition of civil society groups monitoring the elections], as it stands it's 50/50," he told DW.

In Kibera, Kenya's largest informal settlement with a population of about 200,000, different areas are dominated by different ethnic groups. These divides become most evident during elections.

Jane Nyaboke Omete, a survivor of the 2007 post-election violence, says Kibera is a safe haven for her and her five children.

"Here, I feel safe, it's like I'm living with my brother or my sister.

What I'm afraid of is the police. During the 2007 election, the day my husband was killed, men in uniform came into my house and assaulted me… I don't trust the police."

At least 180,000 police officers will be deployed during the elections. Police spokesman Charles Owino told DW the officers have been trained to handle elections and election related incidences.

According to Owino it's up to the electoral commission to ensure Kenya remains peaceful.

"The situation is dependent on perception," he said. As long as there is "a free and fair election then there should be no problem."

Kathryn Omwandho and Andrew Wasike contributed to the report.


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