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Kenyan elections approach

27 February 2013

Rose Mungai 'When the fighting broke out we could not go anywhere. We just closed our homes. My house was like a church. We had to hide people from other tribes.'

Rose Mungai was one of hundreds of thousands of people who were caught up in a bloody and sustained period of violence following Kenya’s 2007 elections.

On 4 March, Kenyans will return to the polls for the first time since this conflict devastated the country.

Voting and violence in 2007

The presidential election in 2007 was closely fought. When the incumbent president, Mwai Kabaki, declared victory on 30 December, the opposition was reluctant to accept the results of a process it believed was flawed.

The conflict that followed rocked Kenya and shocked the world. Nairobi’s informal settlements, or slums, were badly affected, along with areas including Rose’s town of Naivasha, as people were caught up in reprisal attacks.

More than 1,000 people died as a result of the escalating violence, with many more suffering physical and sexual assault.

In addition, some 300,000 people were displaced in the weeks before a peace agreement was signed.

Working towards safety and equality

Recognising that real and perceived inequality in political representation and access to services had played a role in building tensions between communities, Christian Aid has been working with local partner organisations to address the issue.

These organisations, including Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness and Nairobi Peace Initiative, are working with some of the most marginalised communities to help them engage local and national government and secure improvements to their lives.

Building peace for Kenya

In the run-up to the 2013 election, religious leaders, local organisations - including Christian Aid partners - and even celebrities have been urging restraint and promoting peace.

Karimi Kinoti, Christian Aid’s head of Africa, says: 'There have been lots of calls for peaceful elections, that people don’t allow themselves to be incited. My feeling as I talk to people is that the message is going out.'

Sam Ochieng from Nairobi’s Kibera area believes lessons have been learnt from 2007: 'People have learnt a lot from the last elections. I think it will be different next time.

'There were programmes to bring people together from different ethnic origins to discuss contentious issues and things have calmed down a bit.'

Being prepared

Despite the efforts that have been made to ensure Kenya’s 2013 elections remain peaceful, there is no guarantee that conflict will not reignite.

Christian Aid and our partners are monitoring the situation in four potential hotspots – Garissa, Isiolo, Nairobi and Kisumu – as part of the government’s national contingency plan.

Partners are working with communities and businesses to monitor incidences of violence to ensure they can prepare if the situation deteriorates.

Many, like Rose Mungai, hope that these preparations will prove unnecessary: 'Pray for peace. We don’t want to hear or see another crisis in Kenya. We want to elect people peacefully and be wise while electing.'

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