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February 28, 2013

Ahead of Kenyan Elections, Some Take Precautions

by Roopa Gogineni

Video Transcript
KISUMU, KENYA — Fearing violence connected to Kenya's March 4 election, many in the hotspot of Kibera are leaving for their ancestral homelands in western regions of the country.
 
Meanwhile in Kisumu, much of the minority Kikuyu population will migrate to the Rift Valley before the March 4th vote.
 
Kenyans around the country are preparing for Monday’s elections, and the possibility of violence afterward.
 
Hip-hop artist Moroko Lenakore lives in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s largest slums, and a center of post-election violence in early 2008.
 
“They were throwing stones at the riot police and so stones would hit our windows," he says. "It was scary at night. If they are crazy during the day, you can imagine at night."
 
Many homes in Kibera were looted and burned down.
 
"The equipment is usually here," he says, opening the door to a small room in his house. "But now we’ve moved it away because we don’t know what might happen, people might come looting."
 
Lenakore is sending his 13-year-old sister to stay with family in western Kenya, where most of Kibera’s residents come from.
 
It is a pre-election exodus to ancestral homelands many Kenyans will make.
 
Winnie Kashoka, a Kikuyu shopkeeper in the Luo-dominated city of Kisumu in western Kenya, says she will return to her birthplace of Nyeri on Monday, before the election results are announced.
 
Most of her clients are Luo and she considers them her trusted friends.
 
"If you have been good to them, then surely they cannot rise up and fight you," she says. 
 
But ethnic tensions in lakeside Kisumu surface during election season.
 
Most Kikuyus fled the city in 2007, after it was announced that President Mwai Kibaki, also a Kikuyu, had won that year's presidential vote.
 
Kashoka returned months later.
 
"Going around Kisumu as a whole was not easy," she says. "You are still not comfortable. You don’t know the feelings of people still around, whether they still had bitterness with you people."
 
Residents fear Kisumu could once again erupt if Raila Odinga, a Luo, loses the upcoming election.
 
Dipak Upadhyay, who owns a stationery store on Kisumu’s main drag, remembers the post-election violence five years ago.
 
“With heavy forces, they were looted," he says. "I am the one who was lucky. They didn’t touch my shop because nearby is an electronics shop, so they targeted there first.”
 
Upadhyay says the police did little to stop the looters. This time, he has formed a vigilante night patrol with his fellow Asian businessmen.
 
"Before it used to be really high — the crime level," he says. "Since we started, it’s gone down."
 
The candidates are pledging peace, but Kenyans in former hotspots want to make sure they don't get caught up in violence a second time.