News / Africa

Kenya Braces as Political, Tribal Tensions Rise

FILE - General Service Unit (GSU) members stand guard after assailants killed Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed Idris in Mombasa, Kenya, on June 10, 2014.
FILE - General Service Unit (GSU) members stand guard after assailants killed Muslim cleric Sheikh Mohammed Idris in Mombasa, Kenya, on June 10, 2014.

With a political showdown looming Monday in Kenya’s capital, unease has settled there and through much of the country. Some government officials say they’ve beefed up security, while religious leaders are calling for calm.

Supporters of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who lost to Uhuru Kenyatta in a 2013 presidential bid, have planned a major rally in the capital city of Nairobi on July 7. It coincides with Odinga’s deadline for Kenyatta’s government to schedule a national forum on the country’s deteriorating economy, security and political climate.

Kenya has experienced a rash of violence linked to Islamist militants, sectarian backlashes and a crackdown on secessionists. Just last month, gunmen from the Somali rebel group al-Shabab stormed the coastal town of Mpeketoni, killing more than 60 people and torching properties worth millions.

A bloody history

The specter of violence goes back to the 2007 presidential election. Fighting that erupted among tribal groups left more than 1,100 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.   

Some groups, fearing new attacks, are leaving the conflict-prone Rift Valley, Kenyan news media report. The region experienced most of the political violence around the 2007 elections.

On Friday, Reuters reported that religious leaders in Kenya were trying to head off further bloody confrontations. Roman Catholic and Presbyterian leaders discouraged their members from attending political rallies. Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala told the news agency that, “as churches, we have all united in asking for peace and for calm in the country."

The Anglican cathedral borders the Nairobi park where Monday’s rally is scheduled. In recent weeks, Odinga has crisscrossed the country and held rallies to push the government and change how it’s managed.

As Reuters reported, the religious leaders’ intervention could have a significant impact, because roughly half of Kenya’s 40 million people belong to churches. 

In Mombasa, security officers are on high alert.

Police Commissioner Nelson Marwa said his forces will seriously deal with those who want to start chaos. "You cannot just sit back and watch criminals take over a system” and “kill innocent citizens,” Marwa said. “You act.”

After the 2007 election, police were accused of doing too little to protect civilians and stop the violence.

Now, Marwa said his officers are providing more security to vulnerable areas of Mombasa, especially poor areas with higher concentrations of unemployed young people.

"We feel certain areas in the country are already being given special emphasis,” he said. "Some of them are slum areas.  

“It is easy to manipulate an unemployed person,” Marwa said. “You give him some small money, he takes to the street. That's why we are saying these are specific areas we should safeguard ensure that they are tight security there."

After the Mpeketoni attack, Kenyatta, the president, said the violence was ethnically motivated, despite al-Shabab having claimed responsibility.

The U.S. State Department relocated some of its embassy staff and issued travel warnings to Americans about the potential for terrorist attacks.

Lamu Governor Issa Timamy was arrested in connection with the Mpeketoni attack, charged with murder, terrorism and forceful eviction. A high court in Mombasa released him June 30 on a $57,000 cash bail.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
July 07, 2014 12:29 PM
Kenya is just a group of tribes each fighting for its survival with the major tribes head-on. No institution in Kenya is free from tribalism and corruption and that is the major problem of Kenyans. Elections are won not by votes but by how crooked you are.

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
July 06, 2014 2:43 AM
If Kenya's corrupted politicians continue to heighten and fuel the tribal-religion tension....soon they will become full member of African Confederation of Failed States.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs