International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Elections in Kenya: As Polls Loom, Tensions Mount

With the March 2013 Kenyan elections looming on the horizon, the realties of political violence become more real. Many remember the inter-communal violence of the 2007 elections in which some 600,000 people fled their homes and more than 1,500 were killed. To avoid regional and ethnic violence in the coming election, many people are making arrangements to go to other areas of the country where they may hopefully avoid the violence likely to erupt near their homes in the slums. According to government data, 71 per cent of Kenya’s urban population lives in slums. “During the [2007-8] post-election violence, traditional myths about the existence of ‘ancestral homelands’ – considered to be binding to specific ethnic communities by blood – were transferred to Nairobi’s suburbs and violently enforced,” the Nairobi-based Peace Research Institute wrote in a recent report.

“Ethnic identities were checked by vigilante groups at zone boundaries [in slums], inter-group clashes occurred mostly along such boundaries, and the slum-dwellers adjusted their daily movements with regard to the location of ethnic zones (e.g., by avoiding zones held by members of opposing ethnic communities),” the report added

Pockets of violence have already begun to erupt across the country, worrying many following the Kenyan elections in the international community. It has been suggested that Kenyans need to be sensitized on national unity and also learn the skills to be able to address their grievances without necessarily finding comfort in their tribal groupings.  But would it be possible to teach them these skills? Is there even room for international intervention? Or would this only exacerbate tensions within Kenya even more, adding more outside seemingly outsider opinions to the mix?


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