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Kenyans Cross into Uganda for Fear of Post-Election Violence

  • Halima Athumani

FILE - Displaced Kenyans stand in line for food and material relief at a school in Busia in eastern Uganda at the border of Kenya, Jan. 15, 2008. Fearing violence in connection with Tuesday's elections, this time again, some Kenyans have crossed the border.

The Uganda Red Cross says it has begun registering Kenyans who have fled their country in anticipation of violence surrounding elections set for Tuesday. The Uganda Red Cross says it plans to set up receiving sites at the border towns of Busia and Tororo.

The Uganda Red Cross says it has received and seen a number of Kenyans who crossed the border, fearing for their safety.

Bob Akankwasa is its director of disaster risk management.

“We’ve seen a couple of hundreds coming through; we are yet to verify their true nationalities and where exactly they are moving in, but these are still the commercial population movements, people who have the capacities and abilities to handle their situations, but we haven’t seen a significant number that may need significant assistance,” he said.

The Uganda Red Cross says so far, it has handled 10 families in need of support but expects even more once the voting is over.

“We are making our preparation activities around Busia and Malaba border points, but all our branches across the eastern border are on the alert because some of these people move because they have relatives. As people vote, that’s when they tend to move, when they have finished,” said Akankwasa.

For at least a week now, people are reported to be leaving Nairobi and other towns for their home villages; some for voting purposes and others because of potential post-election violence.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, joins hands with Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, left, at an election rally in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Aug. 4, 2017.
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, center, joins hands with Nairobi Senator Mike Sonko, left, at an election rally in Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Aug. 4, 2017.

Opinion polls predict a very close race between President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

It is still not clear how many people are fleeing for fear of trouble, but the streets of many towns are reported to be empty ahead of the election.

Main opposition leader Raila Odinga greets the crowd as he arrives for his final electoral campaign rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Aug. 5, 2017.
Main opposition leader Raila Odinga greets the crowd as he arrives for his final electoral campaign rally at Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Aug. 5, 2017.

Kenyans are also reported to have stocked up on items like milk, cooking oil, maize flour and other essential items. The Uganda Police Force has also stepped up security at the border. Asan Kasingye is a police spokesman.

“We continue to take all considerable measures to ensure that all people crossing the borders are safe and secure; yesterday we received about 30 people here in Kampala, across the border and even in the past one week, we have been receiving Ugandans coming back,” he said.

For many Kenyans, reports of anticipated trouble trigger memories of the 2007 election violence in which more than one thousand people were killed and 500,000 others fled their homes.

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