HRW: Rift Valley violence threatens Kenya elections

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) says ongoing violence in Kenya’s Rift Valley could keep thousands of people from voting in next month’s presidential elections.

In a new report, the rights group is urging Kenyan authorities to investigate violence in Baringo and Laikipia counties and “take all reasonable steps to ensure protection for residents”. It’s also calling on the Electoral Commission to ensure all polling stations remain accessible and operate in safe areas so voting can proceed.

 

‘Police failure’

The report accuses local police of failing to enforce the law and protect citizens in the build-up to next month’s elections.

“Police failure to enforce the law and contain escalating insecurity in parts of the Rift Valley could have a serious impact on people’s ability to vote in the August election,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Authorities should move swiftly to provide protection to residents.”

HRW fear the credibility of elections in the two counties could be undermined if the authorities fail to guarantee voter security. The rights group says the deaths of at least three political figures in the Rift Valley are yet to be adequately investigated.

 

Resident accounts

The report also cites accounts from residents describing outbreaks of violence and failings on the part of authorities to prevent them.

Residents of all three counties said that the authorities have yet to adequately investigate the violence or to prosecute those responsible and that the police are not adequately protecting them from raids, attacks, threats, and intimidation. – HRW

Some voters in the Rift Valley were unable to vote in the party primaries earlier this year, which was directly attributed to insecurity in the region.

“If the government fails to do something quickly, there is no doubt that these people are not going to vote,” one election official told Human Rights Watch.

 

Featured image: Human Rights Watch

 

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.