Kenyans returning to the polls on August 8 will choose from a multitude of candidates that are seeking offices from president to governor, and parliament to county assembly. As the economic and political hub for East Africa, this is Kenya’s sixth set of national elections since the end of the one-party state in 1991, and second since the introduction of a new constitution in 2010. It falls a decade after the worst electoral clashes in Kenyan history, when more than 1,100 people were killed and 650,000 displaced. Given this history, and rising political tensions, many fear the potential of violence ahead. While the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta is presently favored, regionalism and ethnic divisions continue to overshadow important electoral concerns over economic development, regional security, and political change.
On July 21, the Africa Security Initiative of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at Brookings hosted an event focused on Kenya and the upcoming elections there. Panelists included Matt Carotenuto of St. Lawrence University, Lauren Ploch Blanchard of Congressional Research Service, and John Tomaszewski of the International Republican Institute. Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings senior fellow, moderated the discussion.