Spread of guns may threaten Kenya poll

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

NAIROBI: The mass cir­cu­la­tion of il­le­gal weapons is rais­ing fear that Kenya is headed for a blood­bath in the event of a con­tentious elec­tion on Tues­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, some 500 000 il­licit weapons are cir­cu­lat­ing in that coun­try.

The Global Cen­tre for the Re­spon­si­bil­ity to Pro­tect pro­jected a re­cur­rence of mass killings at the poll given the high num­ber of weapons in the wrong hands.

Post-elec­tion vi­o­lence in 2007-2008 left 1 133 Kenyans dead and more than 663 000 dis­placed.

“The pro­lif­er­a­tion of arms in Kenya in­creases the risk of vi­o­lence,” an of­fi­cial said.

He added that while the pre­vi­ous elec­tion in 2013 was rel­a­tively peace­ful, in­creased eth­nic and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions left pop­u­la­tions at risk of mass atroc­i­ties.

Kenya is al­ready gripped by ten­sion fol­low­ing the tor­ture and mur­der of a tech­nol­ogy ex­ec­u­tive of the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral and Boundaries Com­mis­sion, Chris Msando, by un­known gun­men.

As the gen­eral elec­tion ap­proaches, au­thor­i­ties have iden­ti­fied 20 coun­ties as po­ten­tial hotspots for protests, ri­ots, eth­nic clashes, ter­ror­ist at­tacks and land- and re­source-based con­flicts.

De­spite gov­ern­ment de­ploy­ing ad­di­tional po­lice to hotspots, se­cu­rity forces lack the ca­pac­ity to me­di­ate in­ter-com­mu­nal ten­sions.

The Na­tional Co­he­sion and In­te­gra­tion Com­mis­sion has also noted that “in­sen­si­tive and sen­sa­tional re­port­ing” by some ra­dio sta­tions and so­cial me­dia is ex­ac­er­bat­ing ten­sions.

In­cum­bent Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta is gen­er­ally seen as rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of the Kikuyu and Kalen­jin com­mu­ni­ties.

His main op­po­nent Raila Odinga has strong sup­port among eth­nic Luos and other smaller eth­nic groups.

Some politi­cians have been ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately height­en­ing eth­nic ri­val­ries ahead of the poll.

In ad­di­tion, at­tacks by the al-Shabaab ter­ror group have in­creased along the Kenya-So­ma­lia bor­der, and may dis­cour­age voter par­tic­i­pa­tion. CAJ News

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