The Republic of Kenya faces an uncertain risk outlook ahead of the 2017 general elections on August 8. President Uhuru Kenyatta faces a probable 2nd term win; his powerful Kikuyu base has been expanded to include the vote of Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP) Kalenjin constituency following the September merger of The National Alliance (TNA) party and Ruto’s URP into the Jubilee Party Kenya (JPK). Ruto will in turn receive Kenyatta’s support in the 2022 polls.
Five major opposition parties in turn formed a coalition on 11 January called the National Super Alliance (NASA). Raila Odinga is likely to be nominated as party chief, however other party leaders are also vying for the position.
Political violence remains a significant risk the country, particularly during election periods. Over 1,200 people were killed, and over 600,000 displaced as a result of politically motivated violence during and after the 2007 general elections. Elections in 2013 were relatively peaceful. Violence related to the outcome of the 2017 presidential election is not expected to be severe or widespread, however, this may change should presidential candidates engage in ethnic populism and divisive campaign rhetoric ahead of the polls.
Demonstrations against the JPK, along with opposition to the controversial Electoral Laws (Amendment) Act, which was recently passed, are expected to increase ahead of and following the elections, particularly in the event of a narrow, and likely JPK victory. Raila Odinga has campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, aimed at the JPK, and is expected to cry foul in the event of his defeat (should he be nominated to lead Nasa), as he did against President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, in 2007.
County level polls are at a greater risk of politically motivated violence in 2017. The devolution of power to local counties since 2013 was meant to reduce competition at national level; however, due to the intense competition for access to lucrative political offices, these counties risk becoming flashpoints for violence. These seats command greatly expanded county budgets, along with influence over lucrative infrastructural projects, and the like. Tensions at a national level are also being replicated at a county level.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has identified nineteen counties as election violence hot spots in 2017. These include the counties of Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Narok, Kericho, Kisii, Homabay, Isiolo, Turkana, Bungoma, Kiambu, Kilifi, Lamu, Migori, Baringo and Pokot. The bulk of these belong to the Rift Valley Province, a key constituency from where Ruto is expected to deliver a sizeable vote.
In rural areas, competition over resources, land demarcation disputes, cattle rustling, and banditry, together with local political rivalries, mean that localised outbreaks of ethnic and communal violence will remain present through 2017. Clashes commonly occur in the Rift Valley and Coast provinces and are usually contained by police or army units within a few days.
Al-Shabaab is likely to maintain pressure on Kenya through 2017. The majority of Al-Shabaab attacks take place in the northeastern border counties of Mandera, Wajir, and sometimes Garissa. The militant group also poses a risk to both inland and coastal urban hubs Attacks are usually carried out by small groups of fighters armed with assault rifles and the occasional bomb or rocket. Communication towers are also targeted, mainly to disrupt communications, but possibly linked to unreported extortion attempts, as is the case in Somalia. The risk increased following the deployment of Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) to Somalia in late 2011 as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).