Kenyatta supporters in the last election, March 2013. Photo: Sarah Tz, Creative Commons.

”Major risk for turmoil”

NAI-researchers comment on the Kenya elections

Polls show that today’s general elections in Kenya will be a tight race between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, the former prime minister. The Nordic Africa Institute researchers Sirkku Hellsten and Anders Sjögren fear the elections will be violent.

In 2007, when President Mwai Kibaki defeated Raila Odinga in a close and contested election, the aftermath lead to a severe turbulence in which 1,200 people were killed. Last election, in March 2013, was also contested, but there were no serious outbreaks of violence.

Sirkku Hellsten does research on political change and relations between corruption, conflict and security in East Africa. She paints a dark picture:

“There is a major risk for disagreements on the election result, no matter who wins. The murder last week of Cristopher Msando, the man in charge of Kenya's computerised voting system, has further increased the tensions. In their hunt for votes, political leaders play on ethnicity and violent skirmishes have already broken out between different groups,” she says.

Sirkku Hellsten lived and worked in Kenya during the ominous 2007 elections.

“Both Kenyans themselves, and the world around them, were shocked. They saw the country as stable and economically successful and the elections were calm. It was afterwards,” when the votes were being counted, that the violence escalated. If this year’s presidential race will turn out to be as tight as in 2007, there is a major risk for turmoil,” Sirkku Hellsten says in an interview with Swedish news agency TT.

NAI-researcher Anders Sjögren also warns about turbulence. He is a political scientist specialized in Kenyan politics and author of the book Kenya – the struggle for a new constitutional order. Sjögren is presently in Nairobi to follow the elections and do field studies.

”The opposition is expecting electoral rigging and manipulation and will react upon the slightest sign of it”, Anders Sjögren says in an interview with Swedish news agency TT.

The voting stations opened at 6 am this morning (5 o’clock Swedish time), and they will close at 5 pm (4 pm Swedish time). If the vote-counting proceeds according to plan, the results will probably be made official tomorrow.


NAI-researchers on the Kenyan elections:

Flawless elections prevent violence
Interview with NAI-researcher Anders Sjögren

Ethnicity and multiparty politics – it’s all about the numbers
Blog post by NAI-researcher Sirkku Hellsten and Francis Owakah, University of Nairobi


Interviews in Swedish only:

Nervöst när kenyanerna går till valurnorna
– Oppositionen är inställd på att fiffel kommer att ske och kommer att reagera på minsta tecken på det, säger Anders Sjögren till TT.

Spänningen stiger i valfebrigt Kenya
– Blir valet mycket jämnt finns en stor risk för att det exploderar, säger Sirkku Hellsten till TT.

”Det finns en historia av att valfusk lönat sig”
Direktsänd Studio Ett-intervju med NAI-forskare Anders Sjögren från Nairobi (börjar cirka en timme in i klippet)

Spridda våldsamheter efter val i Kenya
– Nu har man redan skapat uppfattningen att Kenyatta kommer att vinna. Och vem kan veta om de formulär som valkommissionen eventuellt senare presenterar är autentiska, säger Anders Sjögren till TT i en intervju dagen efter valet då Kenyatta utropat sig till segrare.


Interview in Finnish only:

Yle Radio 1
Kenian presidentinvaaleissa pelätään vilppiä, kertoo tutkija Sirkku Hellsten

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