JOHANNESBURG, September 14 – Americans have been warned by the US State Department to take safety precautions in Kenya ahead of possible violence linked to the October 17 repeat presidential election.
The new notice comes less than a week after the US urged travellers to Kenya to take precautions against the threat of Al Shabaab terrorist attacks, Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper reported on Thursday.
The travel alert warned of the possible outbreak of rallies and demonstrations without any notice, adding that “even events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence”.
Despite Americans not being specifically targeted by protesters, the State Department pointed out that exercising caution and remaining abreast of the security situation throughout the electoral period was in their best interests.
US citizens were advised to avoid visits to six counties— Mandera, Wajir and Garissa in the northeast, along with Tana River, Lamu and parts of Kilifi on the coast.
However, another no-go area was Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighbourhood.
The warnings followed the opposition party of Raila Odinga, The National Super Alliance, pushing for reforms at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) before the election rerun is held.
Odinga warned that there would be no elections if these reforms were not instituted and if the IEBC officials accused of bungling the August 8 poll were not sacked.
The opposition leader’s threats followed a ruling by Kenya’s Supreme Court overturning the August elections on the basis they were not run according to the country’s constitution, before ordering a rerun.
Simultaneously, President Uhuru Kenyatta, in an address to the Kenyan Parliament, vowed to maintain peace and ensure the economy was not affected by poll-related chaos.
And the fear of violence appeared justified after riots broke out in the opposition stronghold of Kisumu city on Wednesday following rumours that efforts were underway to rig next month’s presidential election.
During confrontations between police and youths who had blocked roads in the south-western city, several people were reported injured as youths throwing stones at police were met with a volley of teargas.
Youths also stormed a meeting of women from various religious groups at a local hotel as they discussed how to ensure a peaceful election.
The women told Kenya Television Network that they were beaten up by the youths and that their phones were stolen before the police intervened.