By Myriam Clerge
Impunity Watch Reporter, Eastern and Southern Africa
NAIROBI, Kenya – Violence has broken out every election in Kenya since 1992. This year’s election, which is scheduled to take place on December 27, is expected to be extremely close, which explains the mounting tension and violence as candidates seek votes and land for their groups. The Kenyan Human Rights Commission claims that local politicians are responsible for instigating the violence against opponents.
The western part of Kenya, specifically Kuresoi and Mount Elgon, has been the hotspots of incessant attacks and clashes. According to the European Union’s chief election monitor in Kenya, the violence has been raging all year. Between both regions, more than 300 people have been killed and 70,000 have fled their homes.
In Kurosoi, a farmer was hacked to death with a machete by a political activist, who then burned down eight nearby houses. In Ugenya, a city in western Kenya, two carloads of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) supporters, stoned a rally by a rival candidate. One rebel group, Mungiki, responsible for a series of beheading, has threatened to disrupt the election. Since July, the group has passed leaflets encouraging Kenyan youth to rise up against the government.
Women, especially, are easy targets for many of the political activists. One aspiring parliament candidate was shot to death in front of sister’s house. Another was dragged and gang raped by several armed men. Angela Waweru, withdrew her candidacy for a Kenyan civic seat, after a group of knife-wielding men threatened her life at a polling station near a slaughterhouse. Martha Kibwana, a candidate for councillor in Taveta, a town in Kenya’s coastal province, was stabbed and left for dead. Through a shattered jaw, Kibwana expressed that she would not withdraw from the race, “[o]therwise it would be for nothing”.
The Gender Rapid Response Unit (GRRU) was set up by the British government to respond to and deal with attacks against women. Since the campaign period, which began in September, GRRU has received roughly 255 reports of attacks. Hundred of female candidates and activists have received threatening phone call and texts. Unlike, neighboring nations, the disproportion of women in parliament is 18 out of 224, despite the fact that out of 14 million voters, women represent 6.7 million.
The campaign continues to be marred by violence despite the European Union’s condemnation. As thousands of displaced men, women and children wait in line in front of Molo Baptist Church for a ration of maize and milk, Pastor George Kariuki expresses the view of many, “If the government can’t stop the violence…they should postpone the election.”
Presently, ODM’s Raila Odinga has a slight lead in opinion polls over President Mwai Kibaki, and Kalonzo Musyoka follows as a distant third.
For more information please see:
Yahoo News (AP) – EU: Kenya Clashes Threatening Election – 21 December 2007
Reuters: Africa – Kenyan Women Bear Brunt of Election Violence – 21 December 2007
Reuters: Africa – EU Condemns Pre-Election Violence in Violence – 21 December 2007