Kenya Faces Risk of Post-Election Violence, U.S. Agency Warns

  • Risk factors include integrity of electoral authority
  • Vote among most competitive in Kenyan history, group says

Questions about the integrity of Kenya’s electoral authority along with perceptions of impunity are among factors that have raised the risk of violence erupting after elections in the country next month, the Washington-based Africa Center said.

The vote will be one of the most competitive in the country’s history, with unrest already having been reported during political-party primaries in April, the U.S. Department of Defense agency said in a report on its website.

“Combined, these factors heighten the risk that aspirants could use violence as an electoral strategy,” the agency said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking a second term in the Aug. 8 race against former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who has warned of possible violence if the election is seen as rigged. Kenyan elections heighten investor concerns because of unrest that engulfed the nation in three of the past five votes. A dispute over the outcome of a December 2007 ballot triggered two months of ethnic violence that left at least 1,100 people dead and slowed economic growth to 1.7 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent a year earlier.

Supporters of the National Super Alliance (NASA) party listen to the oppostion leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga during a campaign rally in Nairobi on July 18, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO / /SIMON MAINA / SIMON MAINA        (Photo credit should read SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images)
NASA party supporters listen to Raila Odinga on July 18.
Photographer: Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

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In April, the Washington-based National Democratic Institute warned that there may be post-election violence due to an “extremely polarized” political environment.

During the last election in 2013, more than 300 Kenyans died in clashes linked to political competition at the county level, the Africa Center said. The violence didn’t attract much attention, resulting in the election being declared peaceful, it said.

“A peaceful outcome will depend on credible institutions -- such as the judiciary to arbitrate disputes, electoral commission to manage the process, and security services to ensure the safety of citizens,” the Africa Center said.

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