In Summary

  • Before the 2013 elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto struck a political alliance.
  • Some in the Rift Valley hope the alliance will keep the region calm.
  • Many of the scars from the 2007 unrest remain visible in the region.

As Kenya's presidential election approaches, many in the Rift Valley feel a deepening dread.

It was in this fertile region that ethno-political violence flared in 2007 and continued into the following year after President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election.

About 1,100 people were killed and 600,000 displaced in the ensuing violence.

Before the 2013 elections the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin struck a political alliance, bringing together President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

As the August 8 election draws near, some in the Rift Valley hope the alliance will keep the region calm.

But others say the fragile peace could easily collapse.

HOTSPOTS

Seven of the 19 counties listed as hotspots for potential violence by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) are in the Rift Valley.

"While major Kikuyu versus Kalenjin conflict is unlikely during elections scheduled for August 2017, serious local violence is possible," the International Crisis Group (ICG) concluded in a May report.

Though the campaign period has been calm in Nakuru County, residents and rights groups say an undercurrent of tension runs through the region.

Joseph Omondi, a human rights activist in the region, highlights that for Raila Odinga, 72, the main opposition candidate who claimed the 2007 poll was stolen from him, "it's this election or nothing else."

"That brings tensions because, in the event that the results are disputed, it can spark violence. That's what now is creating anxiety," he added.

HATE SPEECH

In the Rift Valley, hate-speech flyers with explicit threats against those who vote for certain candidates have been circulating for months.

Human Rights Watch has documented several instances of intimidation between communities in Naivasha, another large town in the South Rift, where people were beaten, killed and forcibly circumcised during the 2007-8 violence.

Some families have already fled the town, the head of the Catholic diocese Maurice Muhatia told local media.

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