The recent killing of two people and stabbing of another in Marsabit town threatens to tip the region back into conflict with just three months to the August 9 polls.
There are concerns that the fragile peace between the warring Borana and Gabbra communities may not hold for long as aspirants use the ethnic card to whip up emotions in the pitched battle for elective seats.
Marsabit County Police Commander Robinson Mboloi confirmed that two people were shot dead by unknown assailants on Wednesday, one of whom was gunned down around Post Bank building in the town at 10am.
“Security has been heightened in Marsabit town and its environs following the killings of two elderly persons and the stabbing of another in three separate incidents,” he told the Nation.
One of the victims met his death when he went to a shopkeeper to settle a debt.
The incident sparked a furore in the region with the public calling on the police to act fast and arrest the culprits. They accused the security agencies of doing too little to contain the situation.
They also demanded to know why the three police officers who were patrolling the area when the incident took place took cover in a nearby hotel.
In the second incident, an 80-year-old man was shot dead in a retaliatory attack in the Kiwanja Ndege area around four kilometres away from the town by unknown attackers, who escaped on a motorcycle.
At around the same time, a middle-aged man was stabbed by unknown attackers in the Maikona stage and was later rushed to Marsabit County Referral Hospital for treatment.
At least 10 people have died in the hands of gunmen over the past two weeks.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani blamed government agencies for failing to find a permanent solution to insecurity in the region.
He blamed the attacks on political campaigns aimed at pushing some communities out of Saku Sub-county ahead of the elections.
Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka appealed to Marsabit residents to shun violence.
He said the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition would end ethnic conflicts in Marsabit should they clinch power.
Marsabit County Disaster, Response and Management Director Jeremy Ledaany raised concerns over the possibility of ethnic attacks. He warned that political rallies could be used to fan instability and ethnic violence in Saku Sub-county.
“We fear what will become of our town as we head to the General Election as the criminals could use political rallies to attack residents,” said Mr Ledaany.
A disputed election could push Marsabit to the edge as it has already been hit by killings and displacements.
There’s a risk that large-scale ethnic violence could erupt ahead of the polls should the government fail to address the insecurity in the region.
In 2013, ethnic attacks resulted in the killing of more than 100 people in Moyale town between September and December.
More than 38,000 others were displaced in the bloody conflicts.
The Conflict Damage Assessment undertaken by state and non-state agencies in July last year revealed that more than 300 lives have been lost, over 4,000 livestock stolen, 300 houses torched, and 2,000 households displaced in Saku Sub-county over the past three years.
Human rights activists who have been keeping a close eye on the ethnic killings said at least 500 people have been killed over the past 12 months.
In the past, conflicts were about the competition for grazing land and watering points. However, with the onset of devolution, politicians have been rallying their communities against other groups in the fight for resources.