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.
The International Court of Justice on 12 October handed down a decision mostly upholding Somalia’s claims in a long-running maritime border dispute with Kenya. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Meron Elias assesses the potential impact on relations between the two countries.
Intercommunal violence continued in north, Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks, and tensions ran high in lead-up to Aug elections. Northern counties recorded persistent intercommunal violence, fuelled partly by drought that has forced herder communities to move in search for water and pasture. Suspected ethnic Gabra gunmen overnight 18-19 Dec stormed ethnic Borana villages in Marsabit, stealing over 1,000 livestock; fighting left 12 killed. Conflict between Degodia and Borana communities over water and pasture 24 Dec reportedly left four dead in Basuke area along Marsabit-Wajir border. In neighbouring Isiolo county, suspected cattle raiders from Degodia clan 22 Dec killed two ethnic Borana herders in Mado Salesa area. Somali-based al-Qaeda-linked group Al-Shabaab stepped up attacks ahead of Christian holiday season. In Mandera county (north east), Al-Shabaab 4 Dec attacked police vehicle in Bambo area, killing two officers and injuring at least another ten; three militants killed 11 Dec in Damasa area when bomb they were setting up exploded; and Al-Shabaab militants 14 Dec injured two police reservists in ambush in Lanqura area. In neighbouring Wajir county, police reservists 13 Dec foiled suspected Al-Shabaab attack on mosque in Wajir town. Suspected Al-Shabaab militant 7 Dec also detonated explosive device, killing himself and two others in Kamloma village, Kisumu county in west, far from border with Somalia. Meanwhile, Orange Democratic Movement leader and President Kenyatta’s preferred candidate Raila Odinga 10 Dec officially launched fifth bid for presidency ahead of Aug elections. Deputy President and presidential hopeful William Ruto 22 Dec branded Odinga as “state project”, also accused govt in recent weeks of using state infrastructure to support Odinga’s bid. Lawmakers 29 Dec brawled in parliament over proposed changes to law governing conduct of political parties and coalition formations.
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.
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.
If [Kenyan President] Kenyatta can achieve a ceasefire that potentially stops a catastrophic confrontation among warring actors in Ethiopia, that would give him quite an extraordinary win.
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.
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. This week on The Horn, 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.
Four years after attacking a university, Al-Shabaab has sustained its campaign, forcing many teachers, nurses and officials to flee north-eastern Kenya, one of the country’s most neglected regions. Authorities must do more to tackle insecurity, reopen schools and counter the risk of increased militant recruitment.