Tensions surrounding the upcoming Kenyan elections, ten days away, will not necessarily lead to an outbreak of violence in Kenya, NGO Saferworld said today. However, urgent action needs to be taken now to reduce the risks of unrest. The police must engage communities in election security planning, internally displaced people must be protected, and inflammatory rhetoric by candidates, which has the potential to fuel violent clashes, must be curbed.
“Political tensions within Kenya are high and have a real potential to escalate in the final days before the election. Additional steps need to be taken to promote calm and prevent negative ethnic sentiments from spreading,” said Daniel Kiptugen, Head of Saferworld’s Kenya Programme.
“We are monitoring election risks and have been engaging with Kenya’s electoral institutions, the national police service and communities to support peaceful elections. With the elections now imminent we need relevant agencies and political leaders to prioritise calls for peaceful coexistence among Kenya’s communities.”
Violence surrounding the 2007 national polls left 1,300 dead, 600,000 displaced and underscored deep divides over land, ethnicity and access to political power. In the run up to the 4 March elections important reforms to reassert basic rights, strengthen democratic institutions and restructure the security services have taken place within Kenya.
For example, Saferworld and its civil society partners have been supporting the police to establish a new code of conduct and ensure adequate training for officers on restrictions on the use of force, non-violent tactics and other standards. Reforms to improve public confidence in the democratic system, justice system and security services have also been wide-ranging since 2007-08.
The police must now communicate election security plans to communities and ensure the safety of residents, particularly in high-risk areas. Peace and security task teams, which have been set up in counties where Saferworld is working, should also be urgently established in other hot spot counties.
Political parties and candidates must refrain from inflammatory statements that could incite violence. Recent weeks have seen a worrying increase in ethnically-oriented rhetoric in election campaigning. Politicians can play a valuable role in preventing violence by actively promoting peaceful coexistence among communities through their public messages during the final days of the campaign and after the election results. The international community also has a role to play in calling for calm within Kenya.
“The coming days are crucial in ensuring a peaceful election. We have seen impressive work since 2008 to create a base for violence-free elections. If this can be built on during the last days before the polls then the very real possibility of violence can be avoided. However, a coordinated effort to support peace is needed immediately.” Kiptugen said.
This press release and more information about Saferworld's work in Kenya is available at http://www.saferworld.org.uk/where/kenya
For more information please contact Bonita Ayuko, Project Coordinator, Kenya. T: +254 722 727021