United to End Genocide is monitoring developments in Kenya after at least 29 individuals were killed by gunmen in two coastal areas of the east African state over the weekend. Coming at a time of already heightened tensions with elections on the horizon, the attack calls for attention from the international community.
While the Somali Jihadist group al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the Kenyan government has implicated opposition forces in the country as responsible for the violence. With coastal areas a “hive of local grievances over land, ethnicity and economic opportunity”, tension in Kenya continues to grow as the country approaches presidential elections.
With the majority of the victims being members of the Kikuyu ethnic group, the same ethnicity of Kenya’s President, and evidence of threats against Christians in the region, the country has become particularly unsettled. The attack serves as a stark warning especially when considering Kenya’s troubling history of political violence, particularly during elections, when over 1,000 people were killed in riots during the 2007 presidential elections.
A robust international response from the international community in conjunction with Kenyan civil society groups helped to stem the killing in 2007-8, and monitoring and prevention efforts ahead of the elections in March 2013 have been credited with avoiding further violence at that time. However, the underlying tensions that caused the previous violence remain and continued prevention and reconciliation efforts are needed.
Given the reports of violence and threats along ethnic lines, United to End Genocide is concerned that this observed violence in Kenya could boil over into larger conflict. With Kenyan politics sharply divided over ethnic lines, the potential for further violence grows as political campaigning intensifies, marking Kenya as a country of concern.