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.
This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by Willy Mutunga, former Chief Justice of Kenya, to discuss the court ruling against the president’s major push to change the Kenyan constitution, the independence of the judiciary system and Kenya’s upcoming elections.
Court dealt major blow to President Kenyatta’s attempt to amend constitution, while Al-Shabaab continued to stage attacks in north east. High Court 13 May ruled controversial attempt by President Kenyatta and de facto ally, opposition leader Raila Odinga, to amend constitution was illegal, warned civil proceedings may be instituted against Kenyatta for breaching constitution; constitutional amendment backers, Kenyatta and electoral commission late May separately appealed ruling. Move widely seen as bolstering position of Deputy President William Ruto, whose allies have opposed constitutional changes and who could vie with Odinga for presidency in 2022 elections. In further blow to Kenyatta, ruling Jubilee Party 18 May lost three parliamentary by-elections to opposition in Kiambu and Kisii counties; in Kiambu’s Juja town, police and Jubilee supporters same day clashed with opposition People’s Empowerment Party supporters over alleged voter fraud. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab-related violence continued in north east and east. Notably, in Lamu county, suspected Al-Shabaab explosive devices killed two people near Ishakani village 3 May and at least three soldiers in Baure area 18 May; in Wajir county, police 12 May killed two suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Tarbaj area; in Mandera county, suspected militants 21 May ambushed police patrol in Banisa area, killing three. Following Qatar-mediated talks, Somalia 6 May said it had restored diplomatic relations with Kenya, which had been severed since Dec 2020 over Nairobi’s alleged interference in Somali affairs. However, Kenya 10 May suspended all commercial flights to and from Somalia for three months in response to Somalia’s refusal to resume khat stimulant imports.
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.
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. 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.