It is with keen interest amidst fear that the Kenyan people look forward to the general elections scheduled to hold on the 8th of August 2017.
Voters will have to elect the president and his deputy, members of parliament (Senate and National Assembly) and devolved government members (county governors and ward representatives).
This process is in line with the Kenyan Constitution that requires a general election to hold on the second Tuesday in August every fifth year.
There have been public discussions about moving the date. One side argues for it to be moved from August to December with proponents saying that the state doesn’t have enough funds to handle an election at the time. However, if the election date is moved forward, it will clash with the national examinations for primary and secondary schools (KCPE and KCSE) scheduled for October and December.
Opponents of the election date change have further argued for protecting the constitutional provision and that any change would be mired by legal challenges that may drag on to the next elections and still require a referendum to decide, putting the country’s stability at risk.
Kenya’s previous general elections have been plagued with violence and ethnic clashes, and this still seems to be the same story as the election dates draw nigh.
However, it is no surprise that in the last few weeks Kenya has seen an increase in intra-party political violence following the start of its political party primaries on April 13th, which are scheduled to run for two weeks. The primaries are “mini-polls” held by political parties to choose which candidates will vie for seats in the general election that will be held in August.
The focus has been on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) which was the first party to begin the nomination process. The ODM was formed in 2007 and is one of Kenya’s main political parties.
Some rumours have been making the rounds that some western influences will determine the outcome of the election as seen in most African countries, but in a report earlier this year, the US President Donald Trump made it clear that his administration has no hand in the Kenyan election and will remain neutral throughout the election process. He further encouraged the Kenyan government and people to abide by the country’s constitution in other to avoid violence and bring about a peaceful election.
Financial Times, however, reported that concerns have been raised about the escalation of violence in the Rift Valley region of Kenya and how this is being fomented by politicians as the dominant economy in East Africa gears up for its general elections.
The violent clashes have been between cattle rustlers and farmers within the region. Mr. Tangin, a teacher in the community who also accused the police of having a hand in violent attacks had this to say: “I have no idea why the police did this, we all ran into the forest at the first sound of gunfire.”
The police, however, did not respond to any of these allegations.
On Tuesday, the Kenyan police fired teargas to disperse hundreds of people who took to the streets to protest the outcome of a regional party primary in the west of the country.
The warnings against violence by the Interior Minister, Joseph Nkaissery, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Kenya, known as the boisterous and most dominant East African economy, is still haunted by the violence that engulfed the country after a disputed presidential poll in 2007 when more than 1,200 people were killed in the widespread ethnic violence.