Red Cross warns of pre-poll violence

What you need to know:

  • Agency says there is evidence showing current fighting is related to election
  • Kenya Red Cross have identified Mt Elgon, Marigat in Kiserian, East Baringo, Sotik, Nandi, Turkana, Moyale, Isiolo, Samburu, Mandera, Tana Delta and Wajir as among those likely to explode in violence during the period
  • Kenya Red Cross chief Abbas Gullet said thousands had been displaced from their homes and property destroyed on a wide scale, overstretching the agency’s humanitarian response

A humanitarian agency has raised the alarm over possible flare-ups ahead of the General Election due to tension over sharing of county positions and boundary disputes in newly demarcated areas.

The Kenya Red Cross alleges that politicians eyeing gubernatorial and senatorial positions were pitting clans and ethnic groups against each other in the scramble for the positions, leading to violence such as witnessed in Northern Kenya and Tana Delta.

They have identified Mt Elgon, Marigat in Kiserian, East Baringo, Sotik, Nandi, Turkana, Moyale, Isiolo, Samburu, Mandera, Tana Delta and Wajir as among those likely to explode in violence during the period.

Kenya Red Cross chief Abbas Gullet said thousands had been displaced from their homes and property destroyed on a wide scale, overstretching the agency’s humanitarian response.

He said the regions could erupt into further violence due to continued political competition and disputes over new boundaries that had taken tribal dimensions.

The official spoke in the wake of the killing of 48 people in Tana River County, mostly women, children and the elderly, saying there was evidence that the violence was related to the coming elections.

“We have been on the ground and there is tension as politicians from different clans fight for positions of governor and senator and there is also tension over new boundaries,” he said.

The early warnings were from intelligence reports gathered by Red Cross officials stationed in some of the remotest parts of the country.

Mr Gullet said the remote parts of the country were particularly vulnerable due to inadequate police presence, and general lethargy of the provincial administration, who had failed to act on the early warnings, due to what the official termed uncertainty about their jobs, set to be scrapped under the devolved system.

“We have had pre-election violence in 1992, 1997 and 2001 and there are indications this could be the worst yet,” he warned.

Pastoralist areas are usually the worst hit due to the availability of illegal guns in large numbers.

The official called on the President and PM to try and calm the tensions.

Although the scramble over county resources was a national phenomenon, the remote counties were particularly susceptible to violence due to poor government presence, and large number of illegal guns kept by the pastoralists that were being used in the violence, says the Red Cross official.

Mr Gullet said as a result of the sporadic violence, the organization had been stretched in coordination humanitarian responses and urged President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, to move and help tone down political temperatures in the counties.

It was also telling why an agency mostly involved in relief agencies was delving into a matter mostly left to politicians.

However, the Red Cross secretary general said Kenyans should not remain silent, saying the country risked looking down at one of the worst pre-election violence as it ushers in county governance for the first time.

“Kenyans should not keep quiet but instead speak out on the tension that is being generated by the new county politics,” he said.

He warned that the period to the election next year, could experience the worst violence yet, due to the counties that had become a source of conflict.

UN resident humanitarian coordinator Mr Aeneas Chuma said the international community was worried that the violence being witnessed in parts of the country were related to the 2013 election.

“We are aware that violence witnessed in parts of the country such as Tana Delta is about fight for scarce resources but is also ethno-political in nature,” he said.

He urged the government to step up its responsibility to protect the lives of innocent Kenyans saying efforts should be directed towards preventing rather than responding to violence.

The international community offered to work with the government in preventing a recurrence of the violence, said the official.

The two were speaking at a press briefing on the state of insecurity in parts of the country and also to map out humanitarian response.

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.