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February 28, 2013

Survivors of Kenya's Past Election Violence Are Hopeful Now

by Gabe Joselow

The town of Nakuru in Kenya’s Rift Valley Region was the center of much of the violence that followed the last presidential election in 2007. As Kenya prepares to vote again next week, the residents of Nakuru remain positive, despite signs of trouble on the horizon.
 
There’s plenty of work to be done at this metal workshop in Nakuru. Workers here are fashioning security doors for local businesses and homes. But it is not as busy as it was five years ago, before the last presidential election.
 
Metal worker Bernard Wanzala said that actually is a good thing. “In 2007, people here made a lot of weapons. They sharpened a lot of machetes here saying they were going to use them for defense. But this year, I’ve not sharpened even one.”
 
Nakuru was at the center of much of the violence between ethnic Kalenjin and Kikuyu mobs following the last election. Parts of the city still have not fully recovered.
 
One area was a particularly hard hit area section of Nakuru during the post election violence that followed the last vote in 2007. Many of the people have come back here to rebuild their homes. And while they say they are hopeful for peace, there are still some concerns that violence could break out.

Samuel Kamau was burned out of his home five years ago. He said as a landowner, he has no interest in a repeat of violence. “We don’t want hatred, because we know we are the ones who will lose the most.”
 
Gladys Mwangi is worried, though, that tension could be brewing in a nearby slum. “We are seeing the people who attacked us before moving their wives and children, while the men remain. Now we are wondering, what might be cooking?”
 
Many here say they are voting for presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta who is running neck-and-neck in recent polls with Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
 
The government has been deploying police to Nakuru, and other hotspots in Kenya, ahead of the vote as an extra security precaution.
 
Keffa Karuoya, of the Internal Displacement Policy and Advocacy Center [IDPAC], said the police presence has put some people on edge.

“I’ve told them, the best thing is to put the batons down, the helmets down, and walk into the estates. Without guns, without anything, to reassure the residents, even those that are fleeing, that the security is there,” said Karuoya.
 
The campaign season comes to an end on Monday, when Kenyans will elect a new president and a host of local representatives. The big question on everyone’s mind is whether the peace will hold.

Watch related video by Jill Craig:

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