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Ten years after a disputed presidential poll brought Kenya to the brink of civil war, the August 2017 general election was won comfortably by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Although reforms introduced in the 2010 constitution have helped avert large-scale fighting, sporadic outbreaks of violence followed claims by opposition leader Raila Odinga that results had been manipulated. Ethnic divisions continue to be a key driver of electoral violence in Kenya and must be addressed by the government through reforms aimed at a more inclusive democracy. By engaging relevant actors and carrying out field-based research, we work at the national and local levels to build sustainable peace and to help advance reforms that can consolidate democratic gains.

CrisisWatch Kenya

Unchanged Situation

Al-Shabaab attacks on security forces persisted in north east, police continued to brutally enforce COVID-19 restrictions and tensions increased in ruling party between factions of President Kenyatta and Deputy President Ruto. Al-Shabaab remained active: in Wajir county in north east, Al-Shabaab militants 13 April attacked police reservists on patrol in Khrof Arar leaving six reservists and four militants dead; in Kilifi and Mombasa counties in south, police 24-25 April killed two suspected Al-Shabaab militants. Tensions between Kenya and Somalia persisted in border areas in north east. Notably, in Mandera town, stray bullets and rocket 22 April struck building amid fighting between Somali federal forces and Somalia’s Jubaland state forces near Somalia’s Bula Hawa town, Gedo region. Police continued to brutally enforce COVID-19 curfew killing at least fourteen across country 27 March-30 April. In capital Nairobi, thousands 10 April attempted to force their way into premises where food was being distributed, stampede left two dead. Govt next day banned uncoordinated food distributions. Govt agency Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) 6 April announced intention of ruling Jubilee Party to replace members of party’s governing body, National Management Committee (NMC). Deputy party leader William Ruto, also deputy president, 10 April called proposed changes to NMC “illegal and fraudulent”, denounced move as attempt by Raphael Tuju, party’s sec gen and ally of Kenyatta, to hijack party’s leadership. ORPP 17 April called halt to process of replacing NMC members after receiving 350 petitions from party members, including 146 from elected officials, and urged Tuju to use internal party dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve issue.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

15 Mar 2018
When [Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga] has a seat at the table, you expect that there will be less inclination to behave irresponsibly and to close down the democratic space. World Politics Review

Murithi Mutiga

Project Director, Horn of Africa
9 Mar 2018
The U.S. is no longer the dominant external actor in Africa, and must compete for influence not only with China, but a host of other, increasingly assertive, states pursuing their own agendas. Reuters

EJ Hogendoorn

Former Deputy Program Director, Africa
9 Mar 2018
It is vital that [Kenya’s President Kenyatta and opposition leader Odinga] invest heavily in ensuring that a more lasting settlement emerges from their talks. Reuters

Murithi Mutiga

Project Director, Horn of Africa
2 Feb 2018
While we were hoping that [Kenya], after a bruising election season, could pull together, that seems a lost hope. The Wall Street Journal

Murithi Mutiga

Project Director, Horn of Africa
30 Jan 2018
[Kenya's President] Kenyatta, by resisting all attempts at dialogue, has put himself in a position where he will continue to struggle to be seen as the president of all Kenyans. Reuters

Murithi Mutiga

Project Director, Horn of Africa
26 Nov 2017
[Kenya's] crisis has highlighted the gulf between the elite and the ordinary people. It is a sentiment I recognise every day. The government and opposition are disconnected from the people’s reality. AFP

Rashid Abdi

Former Project Director, Horn of Africa

Latest Updates

Commentary / Africa

Three Critical African Elections

Delayed elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the stalled transition risks provoking a major crisis, are one of three critical African polls: the DRC crisis, the recent vote in Kenya and Zimbabwe’s election next year all have important implications for democracy and stability on the continent.

Briefing / Africa

An Election Delay Can Help Avert Kenya’s Crisis

The rerun of Kenya’s presidential elections scheduled on 26 October risks escalating a political crisis, as the main opposition leader has withdrawn and the risk of violence is high. The election commission should seek from the Supreme Court a 30-45 day delay to the vote. Kenya’s political leaders should support such an extension and commit to participate.

Briefing / Africa

How to Ensure a Credible, Peaceful Presidential Vote in Kenya

Following the annulment of August’s historic vote, Kenya must hold repeat presidential elections by 1 November. But rising tensions and the threat of an opposition boycott could result in missing the vote's deadline and risk a constitutional crisis. Both political camps must move away from harsh words and find mutually acceptable electoral reforms to allow elections to proceed.

Statement / Africa

Kenya: A Historic Decision, A Tough Road Ahead

Kenya’s Supreme Court decision to annul the 8 August presidential election is bold and historic, but the path ahead will be fraught. A successful rerun within 60 days will need compromise on a better electoral commission, more accountable policing and more effective management of the high-stakes vote.