Kenya's President Warns of `Hooliganism' as Election Nears

  • At least one person killed in fighting during party primaries
  • About 1,100 others died in ethnic clashes after a 2007 vote

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he’s concerned over rising tensions ahead of August’s general elections and promised a crackdown against violence during party primaries in which at least one person has died.

“A culture of hooliganism during the electoral process must not and will not be allowed to gain currency and acceptance,” Kenyatta said in a television address.

More than 1,100 people were killed in two months of ethnic violence that followed a disputed poll in 2007. Kenyatta, 55, and his deputy, William Ruto, were indicted at the International Criminal Court along with four other Kenyans for organizing that fighting. Both said they were innocent, and their cases were dropped for lack of evidence.

At least one person was killed when supporters of two politicians clashed during an opposition party’s primaries in the capital, Nairobi, in March, the Star newspaper reported. A politician’s bodyguard was shot and injured during a political rally in the western town of Migori earlier this month, the newspaper said. In a separate incident, a candidate for the ruling Jubilee Party was shot and sustained a minor injury.

“I am concerned that incidences of chaos and violence may be repeated,” Kenyatta said in Nairobi. “Anyone considering using violence -- hear me clear -- it will not be tolerated.”

The president is seeking a second term at the Aug. 8 ballot. The main competition, the opposition National Super Alliance that’s led by former premier Raila Odinga, is yet to name a candidate. Other senior leaders include ex-vice president Kalonzo Musyoka, former Finance Minister Musalia Mudavadi, Senator Moses Wetang’ula and Isaac Ruto, a governor from the Rift Valley.

The chances of unrest during the elections have been heightened by an “extremely polarized” political environment, the National Democratic Institute said earlier this month. The government has failed to put in place appropriate measures to handle any outbreak of violence, the Washington-based advocacy group said.

The polls may increase political instability, according to the International Monetary Fund, which has cut its growth 2017 forecast for Kenya to 5.3 percent from an earlier 6.1 percent projection.

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