June 28th 2017

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Party violence sends alarm bells ringing over 2017 polls

The bishops stressed the need for peaceful elections, voicing concern about “the resurgence of violence, confrontational languages and hate speeches.” They warned such habits could return the country to the period of 2007-2008 when civil conflict became a real concern.

By Phillip MuleeSaturday, 17 Dec 2016 13:26 EAT

There are fears that, if the confrontational politics being witnessed in the country now are not controlled, Kenya could witness significant violence in the August 2017 general elections. Chaos have been reported in different parts of the country as rival supporters of candidates square it out physically, signaling early warnings that the coming polls could come with unsurmountable violence.

In the past week, political events were disrupted across the country following clashes among political rivals. The 53rd Jamhuri Day celebrations in Meru County were interrupted following clashes between supporters of Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and those of Governor Peter Munya. In Mombasa, the reading of the president's speech was interrupted after supporters of Governor Hassan Joho and his rival and Nyali MP Hezron Awiti clashed and paralyzed the event at Tononoka grounds. And since Tuesday when the Jubilee Party conducted grassroots elections, chaotic scenes were reported from Nakuru to Taita Taveta.

The current political altercations are coming against the backdrop of attempts by politicians to spearhead for a peaceful elections. Early this month, the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) organized a Summit in Diani, Kwale where President Kenyatta led top politicians in signing a peace pledge – a Mkenya Daima initiative. However CORD leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula and Amani Ntaional Congress (ANC) Leader Musalia Mudavadi snubbed the summit, accusing KEPSA of being biased towards the Jubilee government.

And as things stand now there is potential for political violence towards and after the August 8, 2017 general elections. The country’s Catholic bishops early this month warned about the potential for inflammatory language and politician-driven ethnic tensions to add to violence and endanger the country. “The well-being and prosperity of our country depends on all of us,” the bishops said in a Nov. 11 statement.

"This is the only Kenya we have, and we must guard our liberties jealously so that those who come after us will find a country where there is peace and harmony. We should never allow a few individuals to spoil the peace in Kenya and interfere with our inheritance... Together, we can build a country that is just and free from corruption, a country that is orderly and respects the rule of law and a country where the dignity of every person is respected and valued,” they added.

The statement, titled “For Love of our country, work for peace and unity,” was signed by Bishop Philip Anyolo of Homa Bay, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to the Catholic News Agency for Africa. The bishops stressed the need for peaceful elections, voicing concern about “the resurgence of violence, confrontational languages and hate speeches.” They warned such habits could return the country to the period of 2007-2008 when civil conflict became a real concern.

Last month a survey indicated that 70% of Kenyan citizens are afraid that the country may experience another bout of post-election violence during the 2017 general elections. "The high levels of fear about electoral violence may well be driven by Kenyans’ daily experiences of safety and security," a statement from the research firm Twaweza East Africa said. "The prevalence of insecurity in the country has been an ongoing challenge and almost daily, the media contains reports of criminality and violence."

The report said that even though unrest had been on the decrease since the country’s last elections in March 2013, recent protest activity against the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in May and June 2016 had spread fear among the public. Kenya was rocked by post-election violence in December 2007/08 after President Mwai Kibaki was declared president amid allegations by his opponent, Mr Odinga, of election malpractice.

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