Kenyans anxious ahead of August polls

Kenyans anxious ahead of August polls

DW – Kenyans have appealed to the government to beef up security during the election period to address any form of violence. The calls came ahead of the August general elections.

Teresia*, then a mother of six children, was raped in the violence following Kenya’s disputed 2007 election. Her injuries were so horrific, she told DW, she was “no longer able to give birth because of gynecological complications” and her husband left her.

Ten years on, Teresia still lives with trauma while the perpetrators walk free. “We suffered, and up to now we have never been at peace,” she told DW.

The controversial presidential election of December 27, 2007, shocked both Kenyans and the world as a whole. Two months of bloodshed left more than 1,000 dead and up to 500,000 internally displaced persons. Memories of the violence are still fresh to many Kenyans.

Like Teresia, Gertrude* is also traumatized by the last wave of election violence. Fearing to be targeted again, she plans to move away from her home in Mount Elgon, a small town in western Kenya near the Ugandan border, during the next elections.

“When violence broke out we decided to seek refuge at a police station for safety,” Gertrude told DW. “We were raped by the same policemen who were to protect us.”

Many rape survivors of the 2007-2008 violence say the government has done nothing to address their problems. Through the rape support organization, Grace Agenda, they are calling for the arrest of the rapists and compensation for their losses.

Grace Agenda director, Jacqueline Mutere, said the organization has teamed up with the Kenya Human Rights Commission to push for justice. “Breaking the stigma of sexual violence starts by dismantling the silence that surrounds it,” Mutere told DW.

Better security to protect voters, especially women

Grace Agenda has also called on the government to publish clear security guidelines for the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. This mainly includes identifying potential hotspots and providing additional safeguards including sufficient security, lighting and hotline numbers in case of emergency.

Although the election of 2013 was relatively peaceful, there are abundant signs the violence could repeat itself this year. This year’s presidential election pits incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against Raila Odinga, and their supporters are polarized along ethnic lines. Seven people have already died in pre-election clashes.

A report that Kenya’s National Security Council presented to parliament in 2016 said more than half a million illegal weapons, including guns, machetes and spears, were circulating in the country. It warned that politicians were forming militias to protect themselves or intimidate others.

“We urge for campaigns that are free from any violence,” Mutere said, adding that no woman, man, and child should be used as battlefields to wage political wars.


* DW has used the women’s first names to protect them from further stigma. 

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