Kenya beefs up security on eve of election

Nearly 100,000 police deployed to prevent repeat of post-election violence that left over 1,200 people dead in 2007.

Kenya has deployed tens of thousands of police to ensure peaceful elections, a police spokesman said. 

Charles Owino said on Sunday that 99,000 police were out on the streets of major cities and towns on the eve of presidential and parliamentary elections in the East African nation. 

The authorities hope the move will help avert a repeat of deadly violence that engulfed the country after disputed elections in December 2007. 

Voters on Monday will cast six ballots for the president, parliament, governors, senators, councillors and a special women’s list. 

Some 23,000 observers, including 2,600 international monitors, will be deployed, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). 

But watchdogs such as Human Rights Watch have warned that the risk of renewed political violence is “perilously high”. 

Tensions are already running high, with Kenyans of all religions expressing hope the polls, and their results, would not lead to renewed conflict. 

Many prayed for peace on the eve of the elections in which a top presidential candidate is facing a crimes against humanity trial over the violence. 

The indicted candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is also deputy prime minister, and his neck-and-neck rival, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, have publicly vowed there will be no repeat of the bloodshed. 

‘Peace, love and unity’

Violence that followed the last electoral contest pitting outgoing President Mwai Kibaki and Odinga killed over 1,200 people. 

Al Jazeera’s James Brownsell, reporting from Nairobi, said that Kenyans across the country were hoping for a peaceful poll.

“The authorities here are much better prepared for the elections than they were in 2007,” Brownsell said.

“Some 99,000 police officers have been deployed to deal with any potential unrest. But everyone I’ve spoken to here has said they want peace, only peace, and that they would accept the outcome of the election, whomever wins.”

He added: “This, however, is the first election under the new constitution, in which many responsibilities are devolved to regional governors. These new authorities are set to inherit wide-ranging powers, so if any violence is witnessed this coming week, analysts say it will likely be confined to ‘hotspots’ around contentious or closely run regional races.

“On the whole, voters of all political stripes have told me that they are determined not to let the violence of 2007-08 ever be repeated.”

Ordinary Kenyans also said they hoped the election would pass off peacefully. 

“All Muslims in Kenya on Friday prayed to have peaceful elections and on Sunday the Christians prayed,” said Rahman Sharif Hamsa as he left a mosque in the port of Mombasa, East Africa’s transport hub and a popular tourist region. 

Hamsa’s tourism business collapsed after violence broke out following the disputed 2007 elections. 

“We want to elect in peace, love and unity for all together, we don’t want [to] fight in Kenya,” said Daniel Musio Mawewo, a motorised rickshaw driver in Mombasa.

“Last time we saw what was going on and this time we know we want peace.” 

But trials due later this year at The Hague-based International Criminal Court for Kenyatta and running mate William Ruto have raised the stakes: should they win, the president and vice-president could be absent at trial for potentially years. 

In the western town of Kisumu, the heartland of Odinga supporters who went on the rampage in 2007-2008 after he was controversially pipped to the top job by Kibaki, locals said they hoped candidates would accept the vote outcome. 

“Whoever wins, we will accept and it will be OK,” said water vendor Michael Osango, 37. “The politicians are rich but if there is violence it is us the common man who will suffer.”

Source: News Agencies