Six new coastal counties created by Kenya’s 2010 constitution have replicated the closely-held patronage politics of the former Coast province, adding to inefficiencies, costs and mutual suspicions. To maximise the potential of devolution – and prevent militants like Al-Shabaab exploiting popular disappointment – Nairobi and the new counties need to become more cooperative, open to dialogue, and inclusive, especially toward marginalised youth.
President Kenyatta 9 Jan signed law allowing manual voting and ballot counting in Aug 2017 presidential and parliamentary polls if electronic system fails; opposition challenged law claiming it would open door to vote manipulation and that ruling Jubilee party used “underhand tactics” to pass it. Five main opposition parties including Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement, runner-up in 2013 vote, formed National Super Alliance of Kenya (NASA) 11 Jan but have not agreed on joint candidate. Al-Shabaab 27 Jan temporarily captured base of Kenyan troops in AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Kulbiyow, 18km from Kenyan border (see Somalia).
Clan politics, poor services, growing corruption and disarray in the security forces are undermining Kenya’s newly formed north-eastern counties, allowing the violently extremist Al-Shabaab movement to infiltrate over the border from Somalia. To build security and capitalise on devolution’s potential, national government and county elites alike must become more pragmatic and inclusive.
One year after the Westgate attack, Al-Shabaab has become more entrenched and active in Kenya. Meanwhile, the country’s immediate post-Westgate unity has broken down in the face of increasing attacks, and the political elites, security services, and ethnic and faith communities are beset by mutual suspicion and recriminations.
Though the 2013 general elections were relatively peaceful, Kenya is still deeply divided and ethnically polarised.
Preparations for elections in Kenya turn into high gear today as the parties in the three major coalitions nominate their candidates.
As Kenya advances into southern Somalia, it must act cautiously and avoid prolonged “occupation”, lest it turn local opinion against the operation and galvanise opposition Al-Shabaab can co-opt, much as happened to Ethiopia in 2006-2009.
If a governor is seen as a good performer [in Kenya] then that could be a ticket to national-level politics.
Three members of Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa staff consider the implications of Al-Shabaab’s longstanding ambition to broaden its campaigns from Somalia into the wider East Africa region.