Travel Risks Related to the Kenyan Election Results
14 Aug 2017
On 8 August 2017, Kenyan voters went to the polls in local and national elections. With 100 per cent of locations reporting, incumbent President Kenyatta has been returned, with over 54 per cent of the vote. His nearest rival, Raila Odinga, has garnered nearly 45 per cent of the vote. None of the other candidates individually manage to gain more than 0.3 per cent of the vote. Despite the gap between the two leading candidates, Odinga has openly questioned the result, even offering his own vote tally on twitter and claiming that the IT system of the electoral commission had been hacked.
- Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta has been declared the winner of the election on 8 August, with more than 54 per cent of the vote.
- The primary challenger, Raila Odinga, has challenged the validity of the vote.
- At least 24 people are thought to have been killed in post-election violence.
Political: On 8 August 2017, Kenyan voters went to the polls in local and national elections. With 100 per cent of locations reporting, incumbent President Kenyatta has been returned, with over 54 per cent of the vote. His nearest rival, Raila Odinga, has garnered nearly 45 per cent of the vote. None of the other candidates individually manage to gain more than 0.3 per cent of the vote. Despite the gap between the two leading candidates, Odinga has openly questioned the result, even offering his own vote tally on twitter and claiming that the IT system of the electoral commission had been hacked.
In total, 1,882 seats were contested across 290 constituencies in 47 counties as Kenyans voted for their president, members of parliament, governors, senators, county women representatives, and members of county assemblies. The 2017 elections marked Kenya’s sixth since a return to multi-party democracy in 1991 and the second under the progressive 2010 constitution.
Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights have reported that at least 24 people have been killed nationwide in post-election violence.
Solace Global Comment
A Free and Fair Result?
There are no guarantees of free and fair elections, even in the most stable and secure democracies. The EU observer mission has noted that despite the deeply polarised political atmosphere in Kenya, elections were free and fair. They have claimed that the legal framework was generally in line with international election standards. Voting and counting was assessed to be well conducted and transparent, with no signs of central or local manipulation. Campaigning was generally able to occur freely, including in opposition strongholds. However, the EU mission has highlighted areas of concern in its preliminary report:
- The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has had very little time to prepare for the vote, partly due to political clashes in 2016. The IEBC’s work was also continually hampered by legal challenges; there were over 845 pre-election legal cases brought to the judiciary, which were resolved in three weeks.
- Both sides claimed that key state institutions presented biases, damaging faith in vote validity.
- There was a severe lack of trust in the elections which could not be overcome by the use of new technology (such as voting machines).
- There were problems with secrecy, inking (where voters’ hands are marked by ink after they have voted), and the insufficient recording of voters whose biometric identification did not work.
- A number of deceased were likely left on the voter rolls and could not be removed as the IEBC feared that a cleansing of the rolls could disenfranchising legitimate votes.
- Campaign finance laws and practices should be reviewed. There were reports of inducement payments and political leaders handing out food and money at campaign events.
- Fake news – There was widespread dissemination of well-produced false news items across social media, reportedly paid for by political parties. Both CNN and BBC had reported their branding being used on news items not produced by them in the lead up to the vote.
Both the African Union and European Union offering supportive assessments of the transparency of the vote, while noting their inability to observe all areas of Kenya, particularly the dangerous border with Somalia. Despite this, President Kenyatta’s primary challenger, Raila Odinga, has refused to accept his loss margin. On 09 August, he tweeted his party’s, the National Super Alliance (NASA), ‘official’ tally of results, claiming that, at that time, he had received 8.1million to Kenyatta’s 7.2million. On 10 August, NASA claimed a confidential source at the IEBC said Odinga had received 8.04million votes in comparison to Kenyatta’s 7.75million (final results put him at 6.76 million votes compared to the president’s 8.2 million). He also suggested that the election system was hacked, something that the IEBC strongly refutes. They have noted that a failed attempt was made to infiltrate the results system, however. In the lead up to the vote, he claimed that the only way NASA could lose is if their party was cheated out of the win. During the campaign, Odinga vowed to take to the streets if he lost rather than the courts, as he did in 2013.
There is no doubt that Odinga’s forceful questioning of the transparency of the elections has stoked fears that his aggrieved supporters will take to the streets in a similar fashion to 2007-08 post-election violence. While clashes have occurred, and indeed 24 people have been reported dead, at present the same level of violence as endured by Kenya after that infamous election (in which as many as 1,500 were killed and 600,000 displaced) has not occurred. Kisumu, an Odinga stronghold, and the capital Nairobi have been most seriously afflicted by the unrest. Violence has been reported in the slum area of Mathare, Nairobi, with police accused of killing at least two protestors; a nine-year-old girl was also killed by a stray bullet. The capital’s police chief claimed that some had been using protests as a cover to steal. Another man was shot and killed in Kisii County after clashes with security personnel. Five men armed with machetes killed one after attacking a vote tallying station in the Tana River region, two of the attackers were subsequently killed by security forces. Police have also fired tear gas and shot at Odinga’s supporters in Kisumu, after they had constructed road blocks and lit bonfires. The Kenya Red Cross has confirmed it has treated at least 93 people. The government announced plans to launch a probe into post-election deaths.
Despite the post-election violence, by 13 August the country has calmed, though it is unclear how long this will continue.
Despite the post-election violence not being particularly widespread at this time, this does have the potential to change. While NASA leaders have reportedly confirmed that they will not challenge the legitimacy of the vote, Odinga will not give a final statement until 15 August. He has also encouraged his supporters not to work on 14 August â violence is highly possible on both these days. With this in mind, travellers should maintain sensible security precautions and a heightened level of situational awareness at all times.
Travellers should expect an increased security presence, including the continuation of the governmentâs additional deployment of 150,000 security officers, to continue in the medium-term. Security forces have so far used heavy-handed tactics to disperse protestors (including the use of live ammunition) and this is likely to endure. Travellers are strongly advised to avoid all post-election public gatherings as they have the potential to turn violent or deadly, with little prior warning. Slum areas in major cities or those with mixed ethnicity demographics are most at risk for violent unrest. The potential for violence has led to the closure of some services in Nairobi and Kisumu; it is unclear when they plan to fully reopen.
Despite the election being in the forefront of many peopleâs minds, travellers are reminded of the high level of violent crime in Kenya as well as the threat of Al Shabab terror group, which are particularly active near the Somali border.
Travellers to Kenya are advised to employ the minimum of a security driver and airport meet and greet during this period. The level of security provision may need to be enhanced dependent on the area of travel. Travellers are also advised to use travel-tracking technology with an intelligence feed. This should enable a traveller to be alerted of any security updates within their vicinity, and to update others of their movements in case of an emergency.
Download Full Report
Please fill out form below to access the full report