Kenya: Widespread and Localised Electoral Violence Risk report, 27 April 2017
Given the current tensions and previous cases of electoral violence, it can be assumed that some violence will occur following the 2017 elections in August. This will lead to protection concerns in many areas. Family separation is likely and there is a risk of GBV.
Insecurity and displacement will decrease humanitarian access, affecting drought response. Kenya also serves as a hub for humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, with disruption affecting other countries in need.
Approximately four million people are in need of food assistance across the country as of April 2017. Food security is likely to further deteriorate until the August elections.
OUTLOOK FOR AUGUST
General elections that occur every five years will be held on 8 August in Kenya. Given the current tensions and previous cases of electoral violence, it can be assumed that some violence will occur following the 2017 elections, while the scale and impact depends on a multitude of factors.
BACKGROUND TO THE ELECTIONS
The general elections cover all levels of governance, from ward representatives to the president. Presidential power in Kenya remains significant despite devolution efforts since 2010. The county governor, MP, and ward representative elections can result in tensions similar to the presidential elections, although the potential scale of violence should be mostly limited to the local county or sub-county level.
Two main parties are running in the elections: the incumbent Jubilee party, and the National Super Alliance (NASA), which contains the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), WIPER, FORD Kenya, Amani National Congress (ANC), and Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) parties. These two parties are led by two key players in Kenyan politics who will likely run for the presidency: incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee party, and Raila Odinga of the ODM party.
The NASA alliance is vulnerable to intra-party division as two candidates have to be submitted as president and vice president candidates from the five parties that make up the alliance. Any disagreement could lead to the withdrawal of support for NASA by one or more of the parties, and a likely subsequent loss in the presidential elections for NASA. ODM leader Odinga, a two-time presidential candidate with significant popular support, is likely to be one representative. The competition between Wiper and ANC for the second representative slot could increase tensions within the alliance and lead to the defection of one or other of the parties. Even if the two candidates are agreed upon, the repercussions of the decision, and any other potential disagreements until August could disrupt this fragile alliance. FORD Kenya leaders are discontent as they are unlikely to be included as one of the two representatives due to the party’s marginal voter support base.
Odinga, the de facto leader of NASA, has lost three elections, and this is widely tipped to be his last attempt for presidency, strengthening the resolve of his supporters. Grievances over the contested 2013 results remain for Odinga and NASA in 2017. The risk of violence is therefore much higher if NASA does lose in the elections.
DEVELOPMENTS SINCE 2013 ELECTIONS
Some measures in place to prevent violence in 2013 are no longer present in 2017, further increasing the likelihood of electoral violence. The ICC court case against Kenyatta and Ruto, which was credited with limiting post electoral violence from all parties through fear of future reprisals, was withdrawn in 2014 due to a lack of evidence following the disappearances of key witnesses. There is an absence of international presence in Kenya as of April, with an NGO that conducted work on civic education expelled from the country in late 2016, and no permits for aid workers issued in 2017.
Despite discrepancies in the 2013 elections, the results of the elections were not overturned in the Supreme Court, which remains a source of dissatisfaction among Odinga and his supporters ?. Odinga has called for mass protests following the elections if there is evidence of a flawed electoral process, indicating that he does not see legal challenges to the results as useful. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Committee (IEBC), which is responsible for the election process, is not perceived as credible and neutral by NASA supporters. NASA has announced it will be conducting parallel tallying.
Voting is usually linked with ethnicity and is therefore fuelled by ethnic tensions, which are often exploited. Hate speech and old grievances are often used by candidates to consolidate support and to shift blame.
Specific grievances include:
Perceptions of continued marginalisation, particularly in Coast region where there have been campaigns for secession.
Perceptions of dominance of the Kikuyu community in Kenyan politics since independence, which increased when President Kenyatta, a Kikuyu, was elected in 2013. Another term for Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto, a Kalenjin, is upsetting for many members of other large ethnic groups, such as the Luhya, Luo, and Kamba, who already feel they have a history of marginalisation in Kenyan politics. Increasing problems with the devolution process that followed the 2010 constitution has led to tensions in some areas. This is likely due to local politicians blaming any problems on devolution and a lack of funds. In these areas, people’s perceptions of marginalisation, inequality, and power imbalance are only exacerbated with time, and perspectives are likely to be more polarised than in the 2013 elections.
Land grievances are also extremely political and vulnerable to manipulation by politicians. There is a perception that the ethnic groups of the president and vice president have been disproportionately compensated for forced displacement following the 2007/08 electoral violence. Longstanding land issues, such as those in the Mau forest area, are always specific points of contention around elections.
Further aggravating land tensions and discourse on devolution funding are drought conditions, which have significantly worsened in 2017. This has increased competition over land and led to insecurity in counties such as Baringo, Isiolo, Laikipia, and West Pokot.
Finally, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Committee (IEBC), which is responsible for the election process, is not seen as credible and neutral by NASA, who accuses it of favouring Jubilee.
The risk of electoral violence across Kenya is increased locally by elections for county governors, MPs, and ward representatives across 47 counties. Devolution has increased the power of county governors and ward representatives and these elections therefore replicate the high stakes nature of the presidential elections on a smaller scale. Driven by personalities and ethnicities, unresolved local tensions are likely to come to the fore.
If the NASA alliance agrees on two candidates and no parties leave before elections on 8 August, early polls suggest a close contest. With at least some level of rigging likely, a close election with a NASA loss would lead to NASA contesting results, and organising mass protests, as called for by Odinga. Police have been accused of extra judicial killings and brutality in Kenya?, and a heavy-handed response to any protests is likely. This would likely lead to a further escalation of violence as was seen in 2007, likely along ethnic lines as old grievances are brought to the fore.
Counties in the west where the Luhya and Luo populations border Kalenjin populations are at risk, as well as boundary areas in central Kenya between the Kikuyu and Kamba. Violence would also likely flare up in Nairobi and Mombasa, where protests would likely be called. Similar events could transpire if Jubilee were to lose, especially if the results are close. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has previously identified 18 counties in western and central Kenya, the Rift Valley, and Coast regions that could experience violence around the elections: Nairobi, Kisamu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Turkana, Bungoma, Kiambu, Kilifi, Lamu, Migori, Baringo, and Pokot. This is based on reports of insecurity, close elections, and political clashes since the 2013 elections.
While large-scale violence from presidential results remains hard to predict before the elections, localised violence can be expected as the high stakes nature of the presidential elections is reproduced across 47 counties. Primaries for parties have led to violence, kidnapping and killing of candidates, and many protests. While violence is likely to remain localised, there is a risk of it spreading to other areas across the country where similar grievances exist. Areas of specific concern are Isiolo, Baringo, Turkana, and Pokot counties where drought conditions have exacerbated land conflict, banditry, and displacement - likely sources of political ammunition for politicians. Mombasa, Nairobi, Kajiado, Kilifi, Homa Bay, Wajir, and Muranga counties have been identified as at risk due to various local grievances and fierce battles for governor seats.
IMPACT OF LARGE-SCALE, NATIONAL VIOLENCE
Large-scale displacement due to violence and looting will lead to protracted shelter needs for the displaced population. Approximately 600,000 people were displaced in 2007, many of whom are still displaced. Displacement on this scale in 2017 is unlikely as government and police response would likely be faster as they are more prepared for potential electoral violence.
Violence along ethnic lines, especially between the five largest groups that make up 70% of the population - Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kamba, and Kalenjin - will lead to protection concerns in many areas. If violence does occur, it will likely evolve quickly. Family separation is likely, as well as loss of identification, which could complicate land issues if land is seized as was the case in 2007. There is a risk of GBV. Police are regularly accused of arbitrary arrests and shooting, which is also likely around the elections.
Insecurity and displacement will decrease humanitarian access, affecting drought response. Kenya also serves as a hub for humanitarian assistance in the Horn of Africa, with disruption affecting other countries in need such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and parts of DRC. The port of Mombasa was particularly affected by insecurity in Mombasa in 2007/08 violence, affecting trade and food imports worth millions across the horn of Africa.
Approximately four million people are in need of food assistance across the country as of April 2017. Food security is likely to further deteriorate until the August elections due to a poor start to the seasonal rainfall from April-June across the country. These people would be affected by any disruptions to aid delivery, disruptions to trade, and impact on livelihoods.