Call for peace on Rift Valley-Nyanza border as elections draw near

Former Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Francis Sigei, who is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party nominee for the Sotik parliamentary seat speaking during a meeting with his supporters in Sotik town on June, 25, 2022. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Communities living along the border of Rift Valley and Nyanza counties have been urged to embrace coexistence and peace before, during and after the August 9 General Election.

Administrators and politicians want enhanced security, urging police to deal with criminal elements so as to curb violence that hits the region in almost every election circle.

County commissioners Beverly Opwora (Bomet) and Mr Karingo Kamau (Kericho), Kericho United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party governor flag-bearer Erick Mutai and Sotik constituency UDA hopeful Francis Sigei have asked the communities to shun politicians who preach divisions.

The National Integration and Cohesion Commission (NCIC) has mapped possible violence hotspots in the two regions with a view to preventing potential violence.

Muhoroni, Sondu, Kapchebwai and Kobere on the Kisumu-Kericho border, and Chebilat on the Bomet-Nyamira boundary are some of the areas that have been identified by the NCIC, and multisectoral measures have been taken to ensure pre and post-poll violence does not occur.

“We have put in place measures to ensure that the people enjoy peace during the election period. We have brought on board opinion leaders, the clergy, and members of the business community, youth, women and people living with disabilities to a round table in the bid to curb violence,” said Ms Opwora on Saturday.

Though Bomet was marked by the NCIC as a possible hotspot, she said, proper measures had been taken to ensure people go about their business without fear of attack or destruction of property.

“The political class have committed to conduct peaceful campaigns and those who go against the rules set by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to ensure a violence-free campaign and election prevails will be dealt with accordingly,” Ms Opwora added.

Post-poll violence has erupted in the region in almost every election circle in the past 30 years, leading to displacements of people and loss of lives and property.

“We want the people to embrace the full tenets of democracy, where the politicians will only compete on issues, and not deploy violence in the campaigns,” said Mr Sigei, a former Nairobi provincial commissioner.

Mrs Beverly Opwora, the Bomet County Commissioner (left), County Director of Education Mr Abuko Apollo, Mr Malel Langat, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) branch executive secretary and Mr Paul Kimetto, the Kenya National Union of Teachers branch executive Secretary after a meeting at Famous hotel on June,9,2022.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

Mr Sigei said members of the Kipsigis, Maasai, Kisii and Luo communities in the region had intermarried over the years and lived in peace and should not allow politicians to divide them for selfish gain.

“We need to cultivate a culture where allegiance to political parties and competition among politicians for elective positions does not cause deep-rooted differences among the people. Peace is a key pillar in development and economic growth,” said Mr Sigei.

Police and administrators have been asked not to take sides in the election, but instead stick to their roles and ensure law and order prevails in their respective areas.

“Security agencies from Kericho and Kisumu counties are working together to ensure that there is a credible and peaceful election in the hotspot areas. We are looking forward to a peaceful election as a result of the mechanisms put in place by the government,” said Mr Karungo.

Security officers are being trained by the NCIC on their role in the General Election so as to curb hate speech and political violence.

Mr Sam Kona, a member of the NCIC, called on communities to enhance peaceful coexistence, reject politicians and their agents out to incite them to violence and ensure that the rule of law prevails.

"We have consulted with the security agencies and addressed the issues relating to cross-border issues, existing grievances and dominant political actors that may spark violence in the region,” said Mr Kona.

Claims of rigging have been bandied around in the past few months by senior politicians at rallies and town hall meetings across the country, raising concerns among voters as the clock ticks towards the elections.

“Some senior politicians who have been claiming they have the capacity to steal election or alluding that they have done so in the past, which is not true, is an issue that is being addressed as it is likely to create voter apathy,” said Mr Kano.

In the 2007 General Election, chaos erupted in most parts of the country as a result of disputed presidential results.

“Cases of cattle rustling and boundary disputes have been the major cause of conflicts among residents of the region, thus the need for security agencies to ensure the vice is contained during this election period,” said Dr Mutai.