Heightened security to cover Kenya poll hotspots

Saturday August 5 2017

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The Kenya Police Service has mapped out 20 counties as potential violence hotspots. And recent opinion polls have also indicated that there is considerable fear of violence.

An Ipsos poll shows that 15 per cent of Kenyans fear that youth could be used to cause insecurity. Cattle rustling, especially in the north, and political rivalry in the northeastern region, have also been cited as probable causes.

These fears are because the factors that led to the 2007/8 post-election violence are manifest this year as well: A tight presidential contest; claims of planned rigging; rising ethnic tensions and hate speech; and an incumbent facing a strong challenge from the opposition.

The leading presidential candidates — incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee Party and Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance (Nasa) — have accused each other of planning violence.

President Kenyatta has accused Nasa of planning to reject the election results. On the other hand, the Opposition has alleged and challenged plans to deploy military officers to complement the police in the provision of internal security, claiming that they plan to instigate violence in Nasa strongholds.

Mr Odinga has further claimed that the government is planning to use the military to rig the election and intimidate voters in opposition areas.

Police deployment

At least 200,000 security officers will be deployed across the country, and, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, at least two security officers will be at each polling station to secure election materials and maintain order.

However, the number of trained police officers in Kenya is almost a half the number required to fully secure the 40,883 polling stations and also keep vigil in the areas that have been mapped as hotspots.

The counties identified as hotspots are Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Homa Bay, Isiolo, Turkana, Bungoma, Kiambu, Kilifi, Lamu, Migori, Baringo, Molo, Mandera and West Pokot.

Levels of dispute

Unlike the 2007/8 post-election violence that was sparked by a dispute over the overall presidential result, this year there is the possibility of disputes at the national as well as the governor levels of some counties.

In West Pokot for instance, more than 4,000 pupils cannot attend school while hundreds have been displaced because of heavy fighting with people from the neighbouring Baringo County who accuse them of theft of cattle.

The Interior Ministry has co-opted prison warders, Kenya Wildlife Service officers, Kenya Forest Service officers and National Youth Service recruits to boost the number of security personnel.

“The Inspector General of Police will gazette the names of the officers who will be co-opted because we do not have enough officers as requested by the IEBC,” Mwenda Njoka, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said.