Spread of guns may threaten Kenya poll
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