Human rights groups warn of high risk of violence in Kenyan election

By Sabahi staff

February 08, 2013

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The risk of political violence in Kenya is "perilously high" ahead of next month's election, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned in a report released on Thursday (February 7th).

  • Members of Kenya's paramilitary patrol in the streets of Nairobi on May 29th, 2012, a day after dozens of people were wounded in a bomb attack. [Simon Maina/AFP]

    Members of Kenya's paramilitary patrol in the streets of Nairobi on May 29th, 2012, a day after dozens of people were wounded in a bomb attack. [Simon Maina/AFP]

The group's 58-page report, "High Stakes: Political Violence and the 2013 Elections in Kenya", says the Kenyan government's limited progress on promised reforms and failure to address ongoing and past human rights abuses have contributed to tensions across Kenya prior to general elections on March 4th.

The HRW report is based upon interviews with over 225 people around Kenya, with particular concentration on Central, Coast, Eastern, North Eastern, Nyanza, and Rift Valley Provinces.

The report suggests that Kenyan authorities must take urgent steps, including the arrest and fair trial of those who directly incite or organise violence, to help ensure peaceful and fair elections.

"Violence is not inevitable, but the warning signs are too bright to ignore," said HRW Africa Director Daniel Bekele. "The government has failed to address the root causes of violence that have marred multi-party elections since 1992, and especially the atrocities of 2007-2008, so urgent steps are needed to protect Kenyans."

About 1,200 people were killed and about 300,000 displaced during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, according to the United Nations.

The report cites a common theme across Kenya: the unwillingness of the government, the justice system, and other authorities to reform the security forces, tackle corruption, disband criminal groups, and hold accountable those responsible for violence. It says the "near total impunity" for the violence that took place after the 2007 elections has left the people who committed those crimes free to commit them again.

"The victims of violence feel that justice has passed them by, and the people who caused the violence feel protected from the law," Bekele said. "This is a dangerous cocktail for the approaching elections."

Another report released on January 30th by the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International made similar allegations.

The report, "Police Reform in Kenya: A Drop in the Ocean", documents numerous instances of human rights violations by the police targeting particular communities, and alleges that the Kenyan government has done little to hold responsible police officers accountable.

"One of the most visible instances of this has been the increasingly discriminatory policing and harassment of people of Somali origin across the country, amidst rising xenophobia in the country," the report said.

Police have also been unable to prevent repeated attacks in Tana River Delta, which raises "serious concerns about the security forces' response to the situation and their ability to protect the human rights of people in Tana", according to the report.

The group warned that the failure of police reforms would mean that the same police structures in place during the 2007 elections would also be responsible for the security of the upcoming election.

Tensions surround ICC trial

The HRW report said tensions have been stoked by the upcoming International Criminal Court (ICC) trial involving presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto for their alleged role in orchestrating violence after the 2007 election.

The trial, set to begin on April 11th, could clash with a presidential run-off vote, due within a month if a candidate fails to win 51% of total votes in the first round.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson on Thursday warned Kenyans that "choices have consequences", in apparent caution over the possible victory of Kenyatta and Ruto, according to Kenya's The Standard.

"Kenyans must know that individuals have reputation and images built through their history and must be careful against making choices that might impact negatively on the economy of the nation and the region," he said.

In December, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan warned Kenyans not to elect leaders facing trails at the ICC, saying the move could jeopardise Kenya's foreign relations.

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Reader's Comments

  • fred asienga
    July 17, 2013 @ 05:33:03AM

    God bless Kenya amen.

  • Reason
    March 25, 2013 @ 02:20:51PM

    There comes a time when what you want does not apply, at that time it is time to accept what is best for your children, now and in the future. Choose peace, say no to any form of loose rapport on the internet. the eyes of the Almighty is squarely on Kenya, His peace is our fortress, after all even the fathers of democracy like Mandela Nelson had a lot hold on to power but relinquished it to allow others to lead. Whatever the outcome of the case, to most of us who love peaceful co-existence and tolerance, God will always be God. All leadership is ordained by God. The good: for a blessing, and the bad as a punishment, whomsoever triumphs, that is the will of God.

  • Dr nthahena
    March 25, 2013 @ 07:07:21AM

    It is my opinion that journalists contribute a lot in spreading of hatred to both politicians and common citizens. Journalists do not have a small thing. They turn a tiny thing into a huge issue. Let them be warned and they should stop it.

  • joe
    March 21, 2013 @ 06:06:09AM

    Stop the noise. The court will decide.

  • prisca
    March 15, 2013 @ 10:18:02AM

    To me the elections wrre stolen

  • Kamau
    March 15, 2013 @ 05:32:37AM

    You guys should piss off why cant you report whats on the ground leave assumptions away from the media.... which violence have you seen shame on you guys shame on you....

  • Leakey Mutie
    March 14, 2013 @ 11:08:08AM

    The election was transparent and highly fair. However, Kenyans must be patient and wait for the court's decision on the claims from the other side. This is the best way to defend our democracy.

  • A sang
    March 13, 2013 @ 08:29:33AM

    according to me the election was good and fair

  • Christine
    March 13, 2013 @ 06:55:14AM

    Haha, you were looking forward to violence and got none

  • Peris
    March 11, 2013 @ 06:14:05AM

    This article is a shame to the people who were looking forward for violence in Kenya and were deeply dissapointed. We know you and we have no respect for you.

  • Maina George
    March 10, 2013 @ 10:20:23PM

    This is utter nonsense... CIA propaganda

  • Axmed yasin
    March 5, 2013 @ 06:55:04PM

    I don't think there will be a new system based on justice.

  • jamaal
    February 20, 2013 @ 02:53:44AM

    I would like to tell the people of Kenyan to protect their nation, unity by not indulging in violence. They have to respect the constitution of their country.

  • MOSES .N.FUNDI
    February 19, 2013 @ 11:43:51AM

    political tolerance is paramount in any democratic system,also individual rights must be protected at any cost.

  • cuma jaamac cabdi yey
    February 17, 2013 @ 03:06:45AM

    I would like to say the people of Kenya should be be given freedom to participate in Election as well as electing those they wish to elect. I would also say that the people of Kenya should be careful of anything that may lead to violence and destruction in that country we know what happened during the 2006 election.

  • Adam wamahuwa.niko tabora tanzania
    February 11, 2013 @ 09:44:40AM

    Kenyans should elect whomever they want. There is no African who interferes with westerners in their matters, are they clean? westerners are great murderers and they are not worthy, we have already attained independence they should let us govern ourselves

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