NAIROBI, Kenya – It's "no secret" there are concerns about possible violence in Kenya's presidential election next month, the head of the European Union's election observer mission said Monday.
A decade ago, postelection violence in Kenya left more than 1,000 people dead and 600,000 displaced from their homes. It was arguably the worst upheaval the East African nation had experienced since independence from Britain in 1963.
Violence next month would create a situation "where everybody loses," Marietje Schaake said as the EU observer mission launched.
President Uhuru Kenyatta is seeking re-election against a challenge by opposition leader Raila Odinga, whom he beat in the 2013 vote. Kenyatta supporters have accused Odinga of planning violence if he does not win. Odinga has dismissed those claims, and his supporters call them a ploy by Kenyatta's supporters to win votes.
Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, were on opposing sides of the 2007 post-election violence. They were charged at the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity for allegedly orchestrating the violence. The charges were dropped due to lack of evidence, while the ICC prosecutor blamed unprecedented witness interference and bribery.
A government report into the 2007 events found that deep-seated historical injustices, especially linked to land, sparked the violence as well as unrest in the 1992 and 1997 elections.
Currently Kenya faces deadly clashes over land in Laikipia county, where more than 34 people have died since late last year as herders have occupied ranches while claiming rights to land their ancestors occupied before colonialism. The ranchers say politicians are inciting the semi-nomadic herders to take over the land, even though the military has been deployed to remove the herders.