Ten years after a disputed presidential poll brought Kenya to the brink of civil war, the August 2017 general election was won comfortably by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Although reforms introduced in the 2010 constitution have helped avert large-scale fighting, sporadic outbreaks of violence followed claims by opposition leader Raila Odinga that results had been manipulated. Ethnic divisions continue to be a key driver of electoral violence in Kenya and must be addressed by the government through reforms aimed at a more inclusive democracy. By engaging relevant actors and carrying out field-based research, we work at the national and local levels to build sustainable peace and to help advance reforms that can consolidate democratic gains.
Al-Shabaab is targeting teachers in order to expel those it views as outsiders from majority-Muslim north-eastern Kenya. The government’s response – to evacuate non-native tutors – has shuttered the area’s schools. Nairobi should supply funds to hire local educators, while it works to restore security.
Political polarisation heightened ahead of 2022 presidential election amid persistent power struggle between President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, while Al-Shabaab attacks resumed in north east. Cross-country campaigns by opposition leader Raila Odinga and Ruto drumming up support respectively for and against referendum on constitutional reform – proposed by Kenyatta and Odinga – ahead of 2022 presidential election heightened polarisation between their supporters; ahead of Ruto’s visit to Kisii town, skirmishes 10 Sept broke out between pro-Ruto elements and others opposing his visit, police used teargas to disperse both groups. Meanwhile, police arrested MPs Johanna Ng’eno (from ruling coalition member Kenyan African National Union party) and Oscar Sudi (from ruling Jubilee Party, JP) 7 and 13 Sept respectively on charges of hate speech after they accused Kenyatta of sidelining Ruto within JP; Ng’eno and Sudi’s arrests were met with protests from their supporters. In attempt to break stalemate in Senate over revision of formula to determine share of national revenues received by counties, Kenyatta 15 Sept pledged to increase available revenues for counties by some $450mn; 12-member special committee, appointed in Aug, 17 Sept agreed on revised formula ensuring no counties will lose money but also benefiting Kenyatta’s home county of Kiambu; Senate same day adopted formula. In Mandera county in north east, suspected Al-Shabaab militants 2-21 Sept launched attacks leaving two soldiers and five militants dead; 23 Sept abducted three civilians near Lafey town. Intercommunal and herder-farmer violence also erupted in several areas. In Turkana county in north west near border with Ethiopia, unidentified assailants 10 Sept ambushed herders at Nakuwa river, leaving four dead; police later that day killed one assailant. Along border between West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties in west, two clashes between ethnic Pokot and Marakwet same day left six dead in Chepkokou and Kipchumo. In Nakuru county in south west, ethnic clashes in several villages night of 12-13 Sept left at least one dead and 12 injured. In Migori county in south west, two rival factions of Legio Maria faith 14 Sept came to blows, police intervened using live ammunition; violence reportedly left at least eight dead.
Firefights have broken out between federal Somali soldiers and troops from the Jubaland region. A heightened confrontation could embolden Al-Shabaab’s Islamist insurgency. The African Union should press Ethiopia and Kenya, which back Mogadishu and Kismayo, respectively, to coax the two sides into negotiations.
Al-Shabaab remains focused on recapturing power in Somalia, but it continues to plot attacks in Kenya and Tanzania – and perhaps in Uganda as well. To counter the movement, East African states should eschew heavy-handed crackdowns and work instead to reduce its appeal to potential recruits.
The meeting between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga was an important step toward ending the protracted crisis over last year’s disputed election. To build on the progress, consensus is required on concrete steps that can help safeguard against future polarisation and violence.
The rerun of Kenya’s presidential elections scheduled on 26 October risks escalating a political crisis, as the main opposition leader has withdrawn and the risk of violence is high. The election commission should seek from the Supreme Court a 30-45 day delay to the vote. Kenya’s political leaders should support such an extension and commit to participate.
Following the annulment of August’s historic vote, Kenya must hold repeat presidential elections by 1 November. But rising tensions and the threat of an opposition boycott could result in missing the vote's deadline and risk a constitutional crisis. Both political camps must move away from harsh words and find mutually acceptable electoral reforms to allow elections to proceed.
Northern Kenya is increasingly looking like an area that al-Shabab seeks to incorporate under its rule rather than just using it as a rear base.
When [Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga] has a seat at the table, you expect that there will be less inclination to behave irresponsibly and to close down the democratic space.
The U.S. is no longer the dominant external actor in Africa, and must compete for influence not only with China, but a host of other, increasingly assertive, states pursuing their own agendas.
It is vital that [Kenya’s President Kenyatta and opposition leader Odinga] invest heavily in ensuring that a more lasting settlement emerges from their talks.
While we were hoping that [Kenya], after a bruising election season, could pull together, that seems a lost hope.
[Kenya's President] Kenyatta, by resisting all attempts at dialogue, has put himself in a position where he will continue to struggle to be seen as the president of all Kenyans.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell joins five Crisis Group analysts to analyse the pandemic's political and economic implications.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this episode, Alan Boswell is joined by Rashid Abdi, Consultant and former Horn of Africa Director at Crisis Group, to discuss Kenya and Somalia's fight over their shared maritime border.
The Horn of Africa faces myriad crises. Beyond the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 on politics and the economy, the region is grappling with deeply troubled transitions, cross-border jihadism and remains a playground for great power competition. In this Episode, Host Alan Boswell and Host Alan Boswell and autor Nanjala Nyabola discuss everything from digital colonialism and the exploitation of technology by state powers to the democratising potential of social media.