Historically, elections in Kenya have been marred with political violence. Election violence during 2007-8 left 1,300 people dead and tens of thousands displaced, following the victory of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki.
During election periods, ethnic tensions leading to violence are often stoked by corruption and power struggles between rival politicians. Despite this, the 2013 elections were relatively peaceful due to the combined efforts of the government, civil society, religious organisations and the private sector.
The general election in August 2017 faces a new set of challenges. In addition to a new constitution established in 2010, recent devolution means that newly-elevated politicians in Kenya’s 47 counties may use their positions to appeal to ethnic discord in order to win votes. New county borders have also led to fiercer competition over resources.
Despite tensions, there are mechanisms in place that can mitigate these drivers of conflict. Saferworld and partners are working to promote freer, fairer and more peaceful elections in Kenya in 2017. Based on conflict assessments, community knowledge and locations of previous violence during the 2007 election in five Kenyan counties - Isiolo, Marsabit, Migori, Trans Nzoia, and Uasin Gishu, we have identified hotspots where violent clashes are likely.
Our partners work with communities, including youth and minority groups, to identify early warning signs that conflict and violence may be emerging. The aim is to resolve emerging conflicts and engage peacefully in electoral processes. We hold consultative election forums with religious leaders and election officials to discuss peace and security concerns. We then train county peace actors in each of the counties to respond to conflicts, and support meetings among county groups where people are consulted about the election processes. We also conduct inter-community dialogue forums and run events that promote cultural and social peace, including supporting radio talk shows that promote peaceful dialogue around the elections.
We also connect local, county and national actors to prevent conflicts from escalating. Working with civil society we will convene elections working group meetings on a quarterly basis and train officials on electoral laws, regulations, procedures and political mediation and negotiation skills.
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