Concern as political violence begins years ahead of next General Election

Protesters in Nyamache demand for the arrest of South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro

Protesters in Nyamache demand for the arrest of South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro over an attack that left four people nursing gunshot wounds. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Internal rivalries in political parties have led to the violence, with the police accused of fuelling the fighting.
  • It is however, the feud between Governor Simba Arati and National Assembly Minority Whip Sylvanus Osoro that has shocked the nation.

The recent spate of political violence in parts of the country, four years ahead of the next General Election, has cast a dark shadow, with political players and the police being urged to arrest the situation.

In the past two weeks, the country has witnessed chaotic scenes where supporters of politicians, particularly those allied to President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga have publicly engaged in either physical or verbal attacks.

Internal rivalries in political parties have also led to the violence, with the police accused of fuelling the fighting and failing to arrest the perpetrators.

It is however, the feud between President Ruto’s and Mr Odinga’s key allies in Kisii—Governor Simba Arati (ODM) and National Assembly Minority Whip Sylvanus Osoro (UDA)— that has shocked the nation.

Even though Mr Osoro has not declared plans to unseat Mr Arati, the governor’s supporters think the attacks against him aim to destabilise him ahead of the polls.

The recent attacks in the county left four people nursing gunshot injuries, with Mr Odinga’s ODM party expressing concerns over the life and safety of Mr Arati. ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said the attacks are being perpetrated in what appears to be tacit support and collaboration with elements in the security forces.

The moment armed men attacked Kisii Governor Simba Arati in South Mugirango

“Let action be taken against the officers identified in the attack. At the very minimum, Mr Osoro should be asked to record a statement if he is too powerful to be arrested,” said Mr Sifuna.

Mr Osoro has, however, distanced himself from the attacks, saying he was ready for talks, which Mr Arati’s supporters feel is.

In Busia, Governor Paul Otuoma was heckled during an ODM recruitment drive presided over by Mr Odinga, leading to a confrontation. And in Bungoma County on Wednesday an ODM recruitment drive was disrupted after youth chanting pro National Assembly Speaker and Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula hurled stones.

Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University says that in the Western region, “the hostility between Raila and Ruto followers for leadership dominance is intense, which explains the Arati-Osoro power feud”.

“Potential leaders learned from Ruto to position themselves early and not to take chances. Each is trying to assert authority irrespective of how,” Prof Munene says.

He adds that “there also appears to be unhappiness with perceived ODM's inability to deliver as desperadoes seek closeness to President Ruto”.

South Mugirango Silvanus Osoro

Simba Arati and Silvanus Osoro in a past fistfight.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

Mr Herman Manyora argues that at the centre of all these fights are two things: the growing influence of ODM, and the success with which Ruto is attracting opposition governors.

“Buoyed by the influence of ODM, the members are taking renegade governors head-on and UDA strongmen like Osoro are worried that they may become irrelevant hence the need to assert themselves, sometimes violently,” says Mr Manyora.

Mr Sifuna, however, asserts that “the violence is instigated by elements in the Kenya Kwanza regime”.

“Osoro, for instance, will attack a peaceful meeting in Kisii, Wetang’ula will send youth to attack ODM in Bungoma while Ruto sends police to teargas cake. It is proof enough of a government in panic having realised that they have completely lost the people,” Mr Sifuna said.

But his Ford Kenya counterpart John Chikati exonerated Mr Wetang’ula and the party from blame following the Wednesday attack.

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multimedia University says the government’s failure to deliver its pre-election pledges is the cause of the confusion and infightings among Kenyans.

If the trend continues until 2027, he says, we may not have a peaceful election, adding that government needs to work on the economy to reduce the frustrations.

Security expert Byron Adera, agrees with Prof Naituli, saying Kenyans are projecting “anger, frustration, desperation and hopelessness in the face of the prevailing tough times”.

“When they are given the short end of the stick, there’s bound to be flare ups,” he says.