Populations at Risk Previously Studied Situations


Serious risks of a potential recurrence of widespread ethnic violence were raised in advance of Kenya's March 2013 elections. With the support of preventive measures the election and appeal process was concluded relatively peacefully. However, continued engagement on issues of reform and long-term prevention remain necessary.
BACKGROUND: On 4 March Kenyans voted in the country's first general elections since violence following the December 2007 presidential ballot left 1,133 Kenyans dead and over 663,000 displaced. Although isolated incidents of violence took place in some parts of the country, the elections were generally peaceful. An exception was in Mombasa where an estimated 200 armed youth ambushed police. At least thirteen people were killed, including six police officers.

In addition to local and provincial election outcomes, on 9 March it was announced that the presidency had been won by Uhuru Kenyatta who secured 50.07 percent of the vote, successfully garnering more than the minimum 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off with his main rival, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Odinga alleged "massive tampering" with the results and appealed to the Supreme Court for a run-off election. On 30 March the Supreme Court upheld the election results and Odinga conceded defeat. With the exception of isolated riots in Kisumu and Nairobi in which at least five people were killed, the Supreme Court decision was in general peacefully received. Kenyatta was sworn in as President on 9 April.

Kenyatta and his running mate, William Ruto, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their role in the 2007 post-election violence.

Since 2007 the Kenyan government has implemented institutional reforms to prevent a recurrence of widespread ethnic violence. Nevertheless, prior to the 2013 elections populations in several regions of Kenya, including Eastern, North Eastern, Rift Valley and Coast provinces, experienced a significant increase in inter-communal violence. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs this violence resulted in the death of at least 400 people and the displacement of over 112,000 during 2012. In one notable flashpoint, the Tana River delta, over 160 people were killed in a cycle of attacks between the Orma and Pokomo communities throughout the latter half of 2012.

ANALYSIS: Although there were few incidents of violence during the election, political tension over ICC indictments and inter-communal conflict continue to threaten a recurrence of widespread political and ethnic violence in Kenya.

The recent rise in localized inter-communal violence can be partly attributed to a long-standing pattern of rivalry between ethnic communities over land and resources that was exploited by political actors trying to consolidate power ahead of the March 2013 elections. The violence in the Tana River delta, for example, appears to be linked to competition over grazing rights, farm land and water access, as well as the redrawing of electoral boundaries. Following the election these risks have diminished, but the government still needs to address the root causes.

While the Kenyan government has implemented significant political and constitutional reforms, it has struggled to ensure the safety and security of its population, especially in remote parts of the country. Capacity and resource issues compound concerns regarding the government's ability to respond to credible threats of inter-communal violence.

The Kenyan government's efforts during the recent elections demonstrate its determination to uphold its Responsibility to Protect, but recent localized conflicts have highlighted potential gaps in its ability to protect civilians.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: On 23 January 2012 the ICC confirmed charges against four suspects, including Kenyatta and Ruto, for inciting violence in 2007. Ruto's trial is due to begin at The Hague on 28 May, while Kenyatta's is scheduled for 9 July. The case against Francis Mathaura, an ally of Kenyatta, was dropped on 11 March.

Some 23,000 observers including 2,600 international monitors were present in Kenya for the election on 4 March. On 11 March the African Union (AU) released a statement congratulating Kenyatta on his victory and commending the Kenyan people for conducting a peaceful election.

NECESSARY ACTION: The government must address protection and intelligence gaps, including through adequately resourcing the security forces in regions at ongoing risk of inter-communal violence, particularly Eastern, North Eastern, Rift Valley and Coast provinces. It should complete its investigation into the attacks in the Tana River delta and hold perpetrators accountable.

The government must reaffirm its commitment to ensure that all Kenyans, including government officials and security forces, will be held responsible for inciting, aiding or perpetrating mass atrocity crimes.

The AU and UN need to assist the Kenyan government in long-term efforts aimed at strengthening the rule of law, demobilizing militias and building inter-communal dialogue, particularly by involving local civil society actors and supporting early warning and conflict management mechanisms.

Last Updated: 15 April 2013