With their upcoming presidential elections later this summer, Kenyans continue their collective effort at strengthening and deepening their democracy. But the moment is also fraught. The August 9 vote is expected to be the most tightly contested in Kenya’s recent history, with political tensions rising since Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta shifted his support from Deputy President William Ruto to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Although much has changed since Kenya’s 2007 elections, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 and the displacement of over 650,000 people, the risks of violence and human rights violations remain high. In 2007, mass violence was triggered by the questioning of results and the fairness of electoral institutions and heightened by ethnic cleavages and elite polarization. The 2013 and 2017 elections that followed were comparatively less violent yet still marred by human rights violations. Despite institutional reforms over the past decades, the adoption of a new constitution, and comparatively lower social tensions, Kenyans are acutely aware of the possibility of pre- and post-election violence. Yet, there is also hope that Kenya’s impending transition will unfold freely, fairly, and peacefully.
On June 29, Brookings hosted an event to discuss these and other important issues related to the risks ahead and their implications for regional stability. Brookings Senior Fellow and Director of Research Michael E. O’Hanlon moderated a conversation between St. Lawrence University scholars Matthew Carotenuto and Michael Wairungu.
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Director of Research - Foreign Policy
Co-Director - Africa Security Initiative
The Sydney Stein, Jr. Chair
Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy
Assistant Director of Student Life and Academic Instruction and Professor - St. Lawrence University Kenya Semester Program
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