Kenyans are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best as they prepare for the country’s general election on Aug. 8.
Given the recent history of post-election violence, that means sending children out of high-risk areas, reducing the volume of items in stores to deter looters and gathering supplies in case people can’t leave their homes.
“We are afraid there could be violence,” said Violet Sacco, standing at the roadside along Waiyaki Way in Nairobi’s northwest, waiting to board a bus with her two daughters, Alice, 6, and Grace, 10. She was sending them to the country’s western region, where she hoped they would be safe.
“With the children, you can be so worried. But when you are alone, you can run far.”
Sacco said there is widespread concern there could be post-election violence of the kind that occurred in 2007 after accusations the vote was rigged.
“The way people are talking, the elders, we are afraid of that,” she said.
This election is particularly tense. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has previously contested election results, while current President Uhuru Kenyatta has said he has no plans to be Kenya’s first single-term president.
Previous elections have ignited violence between some of Kenya’s largest ethnic groups, who often vote by tribe. There are about 40 ethnic groups in the country. Current president Kenyatta is part of the Kikuyu tribe, the largest, while opposition leader Odinga is Luo, a group that has often felt excluded.
‘Kenya is still the same’
Last week, a senior electoral commission official in charge of the electronic transmission of votes was found dead, his body showing signs of torture. It has added to concerns about the integrity of the vote – particularly after an audit found tens of thousands of irregular names on the voting lists.
Geoffrey Otiende was in Eldoret, a town in Kenya’s west, when violence erupted after the vote in 2007. He said he watched people – and in some cases police officers – storm onto properties, either stealing or destroying things, and targeting specific tribes.
They set maize crops on fire, and killed cattle.
At the time, Otiende owned a club with three pool tables, each worth about $750 Cdn. They were all set ablaze. Fearing for his life, he fled to Nairobi.