Kenyans pin hopes on police to prevent election violence

Kenyans pin hopes on police to prevent election violence

It is election time in the east African nation of Kenya, and already analysts fear the repeat of 2007-2008 post-election due to the political tensions currently boiling on the ground.

The Institute of Security Studies (ISS) this week said the country’s security institutions, particularly the police, must take bold action to curb the risk of violence during the 4 March 2013.

Tsegaye D Baffa, ISS Senior Researcher for conflict management and peace building division, said: “A proper understanding of the police’s role in electoral processes, as well as the principles of policing elections, is key to providing effective electoral security.

“Success in maintaining election security depends upon the political neutrality and professionalism of the security personnel. Police officers should not belong to any political party or promote partisan views.”

Nairobi-based Baffa urged the police to do their job without any bias towards any of the contesting parties. “The professionalism of the police is demonstrated by the extent to which the police institutions are organised, resourced and managed, as well as the extent to which officers are trained and disciplined.”

The 2007-2008’s bloody post-election violence, the outcome of which saw incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and his sworn enemy Prime Minister Raila Odinga forced to uneasily get cozy in a government of national union, lasted two months and one day.

Close to 1500 people were killed, scores were injured and at least 200 000 were displaced.

Five years later, the wounds, tears and sweat from that violence still linger in many Kenyans’ minds, and many are hoping that the March 2013 elections will turn a sad page in the country’s troubled history, and foster true reconciliation between the camp of Luos and the Kalenjin (ethnic groups that supported Odinga) and the Kikuyu (Kibaki’s ethnic group).

Baffa called on police officers to ensure that they stay clear of the common mistakes: intimidation, unlawful arrest and detention, refusal to provide protection, obstruction of the exercise of election rights and systematic influence on voters.

ISS also said police should avoid the use of excessive force, a breach of the conventional procedures of law enforcement, and inattentiveness to and unjustness in dealing with complaints.

*Photo by A Kenyan child contemplates a photo of a post-election violence in the capital Nairobi.

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