A Kenya travel warning has been issued by the US State Department, sounding a clear warning to Americans traveling to or living in Kenya ahead of the country’s general election in August.
Kenya will be heading to the polls in August to elect leaders into almost 1900 public offices. These public offices will include; the presidency, senators, county governors, members of the national and county assemblies, and women county representatives.
For the Presidency, incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto will likely face an opposition that has built a campaign around their failings. The opposition is likely to pick as their candidate Raila Odinga, a key opposition figure in Kenya who has been running for the seat of the President for almost 20 years.
Kenya Travel Warning comes in the face of real fears of post-election violence
In the lead up to the elections, there are fears that it will all end up in violence. A poll in December found that 61% of 800 Kenyans polled said that election violence was their biggest worry for 2017.
The elections will be managed by an embattled Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission which had been the cause of numerous protests last year as the people called for the replacement of some of its leaders.
In 2007, disputed election results stoked ethnic violence across the country leading to the death of more than 1,200 people. The aftermath of the last elections in 2013 was, however, peaceful but the protests leading up to this campaign season have been volatile, causing at least five deaths. It is no wonder, therefore, that the US State department feels that it is necessary to release a Kenya travel warning.
They warned that “Rallies, demonstrations, and protests may occur with little notice and even those intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence,” and asked US citizens to “exercise caution.” The statement also said the election may be an “opportunity for criminal elements or terrorists to target participants and visitors.”
Back in 2007, the international community helped mediate an end to the violence but that seems less likely to occur this year considering the number of conflicts around the world and the ongoing contentions of the new US administration and Brexit.
The Kenya travel warning will most likely hurt, even further, Kenya’s already struggling tourism industry. The industry is still trying to recover from previous travel warnings that centered around attacks on Kenya by the Somalia-based militant group al Shabaab. For an industry that is the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange, it is a pretty sad blow.