Renewed violence reported in Laikipia County in northern Kenya in recent weeks is likely to fuel nervousness in the region over possible widespread tensions related to the country’s upcoming elections in 2022.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has campaigned security forces, including the military, in the area to evict armed shepherds who have occupied private ranches, killed seven people, set fire to houses and evicted entire villages in recent weeks.
Two politicians, one of them an incumbent MP, were arrested separately on Wednesday and charged in court the next day with inciting the raids. Concerns remain, however, that the bold assaults against members of certain communities for displacement in Laikipia could encourage politicians in other multiethnic areas to incite electoral violence and re-test the country’s political stability.
Youngsters Reports indicated that some inland neighbors of Kenya, concerned about the polarized early campaigns to succeed President Kenyatta, are considering diverting their trade logistics from the port of Mombasa to Dar es Salaam. In 2009, Ugandan and Rwandan businesspeople sought compensation for the destruction of their trucks and goods along the Nairobi-Eldoret-Kampala highway during the violence in connection with the controversial presidential elections in Kenya in 2007.
The invasion of a number of ranches , including the Laikipia Nature Conservancy, owned by world-renowned conservationist and author Kuki Gallman, is also an undesirable advertisement for the country’s tourism and hotel industries as it is emerging from Covid-19 shutdowns and travel restrictions. With the highest density of wildlife in Kenya and some of the most expensive luxury safari lodges where high quality visitors pay the highest dollar per night, it is one of the country’s tourism jewels.
Drought-prone Laikipia, like other semi-arid areas Northern Kenya has a history of conflict with sprawling wildlife farms, farming settlements and nomadic pastoral communities over pastures and water.
In April 2017, armed shepherds shot and wounded Ms. Gallman at her ranch, weeks after another ranch owner Tristan Voorspuy was shot dead .
But the escalation of pastoral invasions near elections and a pattern of attacks on certain ethnic communities displaced in recent years have also been a concern of politicians in recent years. Increasingly exploit grievances about voter suppression resources. An analyst report by think tank Crisis Group linked similar violence in the region in the run-up to the 2017 elections with the higher stakes in local campaigns with the introduction of decentralized governments in 2013.
“Under Kenya’s 2010 constitution, resources are now Managed at the local level by elected officials. While this power distribution is popular, it has also made local campaigns more intense and violent, especially in ethnically mixed areas, ”the report said.