Photo credit: Ramon Sanchez Orense/Saferworld
Photo credit: Ramon Sanchez Orense/Saferworld


Elections in Kenya have been marred by political violence. In 2007-8, 1,300 people were left dead and tens of thousands displaced following the victory of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.

During elections, rival politicians’ power struggles and corruption often fuel ethnic tensions leading to violence. Despite this, the 2013 elections were relatively peaceful due to the combined efforts of the government, civil society, religious organisations and the private sector to address the warning signs of conflict.

The 2017 general election saw its share of political turmoil. After incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected, opposition leader Raila Odinga contested the result. The Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the election results, calling for fresh elections to take place in October.  However an unexpected reconciliation between Kenya’s president and the longstanding opposition leader provided an opportunity for peace, with the latter withdrawing from the repeat election.

Despite the tumultuous nature of the elections, violence was less intense than in 2007-8, thanks in part to efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict escalating. Ahead of the elections, we worked in five countries – Isiolo, Marsabit, Migori, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu – to address factors that drive violence and conflict. We conducted conflict assessments, spoke with those affectedand looked at the locations of violence from the 2007 election, to identify areas where violent clashes were more likely to occur.

Together with our partners, we worked with communities – including youth and minority groups – to identify the early warning signs of violence.

We supported communities to resolve any emerging conflicts and engage peacefully in electoral processes. Given their strong standing with communities, we held consultative election forums with religious leaders and election officials to discuss peace and security concerns. We trained people in different counties to respond to conflict as it broke out and to support consultations with people on election processes. Our community dialogues and events promoted greater cultural and social understanding, and included support for radio talk shows that encourage peaceful dialogue.

We also supported rapid responses to episodes of violence. For example, we worked nationally with a group of civil society organisations to ensure better communication and coordination. This allowed them to mount rapid and coordinated responses to rapidly evolving events around the elections.

Ahead of the 2022 general elections, we will continue to connect local, county and national groups and individuals to prevent conflicts from escalating.

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