Kenya: US issues travel alerts to Raila’s stronghold, security beefed-up in Ruto’s home turf

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 4 August 2022 13:04
Kenya's opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga campaigns in Kiambu
Kenya's opposition leader and presidential candidate Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja coalition, addresses a campaign rally ahead of the forthcoming general election at the Kirigiti Stadium in Kiambu, Kenya August 1, 2022. REUTERS/Monicah Mwangi

The US embassy in Nairobi has issued a warning to its citizens against travelling to the Lakeside city of Kisumu – the home of presidential candidate Raila Odinga – ahead of Kenya’s general elections next Tuesday.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the embassy said it fears election-related demonstrations may take place with a great risk of turning violent before and after the polls.

“Election-related demonstrations and rallies regularly take place in the run-up to the election and are likely to continue, at times blocking key intersections and causing traffic jams,” warned the Embassy.

The security alert came as President Uhuru Kenyatta was touring Kisumu, to bid farewell to the residents of the Western city and campaign for Raila, his preferred successor.

However, Kisumu’s Governor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o has come out to dismiss the security alert saying the city is safe, and the statement by the US Embassy should not be heeded.

He further states that during this electioneering period, the city has not recorded a single violent act, and has been in a celebratory mood to welcome Kenyatta who has been touring.

“People of Kisumu are very peaceful,” he added.

Why Kisumu?

Javas Bigambo, a Nairobi-based political analyst, says, the alert does not clearly state the reasons and dismissed the fear of violence in this election.

“The statement raises more questions, why did it mention only Kisumu?” he asks.

In the past, Kisumu has witnessed large protests between Raila supporters and the police contesting presidential results in 2007, 2013, and 2017 leading to over 24 deaths.

But, for the first time, authorities have not deployed more security forces in Kisumu, as in past elections, to deter any violence.

Ruto’s stronghold reinforced

Meanwhile, eight people were arrested in Eldoret town, William Ruto’s political stronghold over circulated leaflets that were deemed to incite violence.

The leaflets are threatening non-Kalenjins (Rutos’s community) residing in Eldoret, Kuresoi, and Molo to vote for Ruto. Those who choose not to vote for Ruto must either leave or face the consequences.

While campaigning in the Rift Valley, Ruto said that those preaching hate and distributing those leaflets are from the government who want his backyard to burn during this election.

“There will be no violence here, we shall vote peacefully,” Ruto said.

The move has prompted the security minister Fred Matiang’i to announce more, security personnel to be deployed to the three towns while dismissing Ruto’s claims that the leaflets were distributed by the government.

“The residents should expect more security personnel in these towns ahead of the vote,” he said.

Bigambo says while the move by the Security Minister is meant to assure the security of all residents in Ruto’s backyard, it’s sparking fears.

“The government might be communicating that there is a possibility of violence in those areas,” he says.

In June, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, an independent body, was mandated by the government to promote equality, national peace, and unity. It has since named Kisumu, Mombasa, Nairobi, Eldoret, Kuresoi and Molo as potential hotspots for violence during the election.

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