News / Africa

Security a Concern Ahead of Kenya Presidential Election

Relatives cry for their loved one as he is brought into hospital after an explosion, al-Shabab sympathizers are suspected in many of the blast attacks, Dec. 7, 2012.
Relatives cry for their loved one as he is brought into hospital after an explosion, al-Shabab sympathizers are suspected in many of the blast attacks, Dec. 7, 2012.
Gabe Joselow
Kenyan presidential hopeful Musalia Mudavadi says the conflict in Somalia has created new security challenges for Kenya as the country prepares for elections in March.  In an interview with VOA Wednesday, the deputy prime minister said the country's security agencies will have to be extra vigilant to ensure a peaceful vote.

As Kenya's presidential poll approaches, the candidates are calling for peace, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the violence that followed the last presidential election in 2007.

Interethnic fighting that broke out after the disputed vote left more than 1,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.

Musalia Mudavadi was the running mate to current Prime Minister Raila Odinga during his campaign for president in 2007 and saw first-hand how the political dispute led to violence.

He says a new threat has emerged since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 in pursuit of al-Shabab militants blamed for cross-border attacks.  Since the intervention, Kenya has endured a series of grenade attacks in Nairobi that police blame on al-Shabab or its sympathizers. 

“So we must be careful that as much as possible, the security threat from that quarter does not undermine our democratic process because it has a second danger of introducing serious weaponry into this process, which was not necessarily the issue in 2007 and 2008,” Mudavadi said.

Mudavadi says Kenya had no choice but to intervene in Somalia, even if it has brought the threat of attack closer to home.

Other recent incidents of violence within Kenya have raised concerns about whether the country can hold a peaceful vote.  On Wednesday, the Kenyan Red Cross said at least eight people were killed in renewed clashes in the Tana River area between two rival communities - an ongoing conflict that politicians and Red Cross officials have said is politically motivated.

Mudavadi said that while he does not expect a return to the kind of widespread violence seen after the last election, he is concerned that Kenyan police may not be prepared in the case that it does occur. “So as much as I don't see us getting to the situation that we were in, we should not take anything for granted. The incidents happening in Tana River at this particular time, even when the police presence has been increased in that area, tells you that during an election time, when police forces are overstretched, it could be very very dangerous for the country,” he explained.

Mudavadi is trailing in recent polls behind other presidential hopefuls, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

He recently left a coalition with Kenyatta and member of parliament William Ruto, both of whom have been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges that they were responsible for crimes committed during the 2008 post-election violence.

He says that while it is not his role to judge the ICC suspects, he acknowledged that their candidacy in the upcoming elections could have an impact on foreign relations.

“Kenya is not an island, we are a nation amongst others and we must always make sure that we retain our dignity as a nation, our sovereignty as a nation," Mudavadi noted. "Yet at the same time, we must remember that we are part of a broader international community.”

After leaving the alliance with Kenyatta and Ruto, Mudavadi is now part of the new Amani coalition, with Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa.

Both politicians come from western Kenya, where they maintain their base of support.  But the hard part for the campaign will be winning votes in the Rift Valley and Central Province regions, which are the traditional strongholds of Ruto and Kenyatta and the epicenter of the violence that tore the country apart last time around.

You May Like

Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

UNICEF: Hidden Epidemic of HIV Among Adolescents

Researchers warn that Asia Pacific nations facing sharp rise in incidence of HIV among adolescents

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Margaret S. Maringa from: Baltimore (US
January 09, 2013 11:55 PM
Politicians everywhere suffer from this lingering habit of "selective amnesia" which translates into conveniently ignoring pressing issues unless (until) they become political opportunity.

This negative habit becomes increasingly manifest and doubly disgusting around election campaigns.

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.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

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 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.

VOA Blogs