African Press Association

Ethnic conflict threatens to halt Kenya elections

From.’? MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi, Kenya
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – THOUSANDS of Kenyans in the explosive Rift Valley might not vote in next month’s general elections because of ethnic
violence, conflict between ranch owners and nomadic cattle herders as well as brutality by military deployed to curb the crises.
The turbulence has displaced up to 10 000 civilians in Baringo, Laikipia
and Turkan Counties ahead of polls on August 8.
Laikipia, known for large ranches established by the white community after independence in 1963, has in recent months been hit by conflict pitting private ranch owners against Pokot and Samburu herders.
A heavy deployment of military and police has resulted in forces routinely shooting livestock found on private ranches.
Turkana and Baringo also have long-standing insecurity characterized by ethnic clashes and cattle rustling between Pokot, Turkana and Kalenjin ethnic groups.
Military and police officers in the region have failed to stem the
Human rights groups said authorities in the East African country must
urgently investigate violence and ensure law enforcement operations are lawful.
The Electoral Commission has been urged to ensure polling places remain accessible and in safe areas so voting can proceed.
“Police failure to enforce the law and contain escalating insecurity in
parts of the Rift Valley could have a serious impact on people’s ability
to vote in the August election,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa human rights expert.
With thousands displaced from the areas they are supposed to vote, Andrew Limo, Election Commission spokesman, ruled out the possibility of polling places being moved to safe locations.
“We will maintain the stations as gazette. Any changes can cause confusion and trigger lawsuits,” Limo said.
Over 1 000 people were killed and 600 displaced in elections held a decade ago.
The opposition challenged the poll as rigged.

– CAJ News