The Sentinel Project has updated its annual assessment on the risk of genocide and mass atrocites in Kenya and has maintained the country as a situation of concern with the “High” risk rating established in 2011. Our teams of analysts have revised the original report to reflect recent developments that correspond to each of the 30 risk factors in the Sentinel Project’s early warning framework.
While there have been positive developments in Kenya since the post-election violence in 2007-08 with advances in reforming the judiciary and security forces, the underlying sources of tension have not been fully addressed. Significant economic and demographic stresses remain, which can further exacerbate serious ethnic tensions. The country’s history is one of ethnic and political division, polarization, and competition, which has contributed to a political and social order that promote ethnocentrism and inter-tribal antagonism. These divisions often dictate political allegiances and have led to several localized cases of violence, including a recent massacre in the Tana River District as well as anti-Somali riots and military action in other parts of the country. Furthermore, high-level organizers of the 2007-08 violence have not been brought to trial and some now stand as major candidates for the upcoming presidential election.
If the outcome of the March 2013 election is violent, there is high potential for mass atrocities including genocide in Kenya, with groups and individuals likely to take up arms. The most likely scenario will be the occurrence of mass atrocities in a variety of locations throughout the country with the support of local politicians and community leaders. It is not the extermination of a single group by government forces that seem most likely to occur in this case but rather violence influenced by the constitutional amendments approved during the 2010 referendum which changed the country’s governing structure and devolved political power to the regional and local levels. A parallel devolution of political sponsorship for ethnic violence is likely.
Click here for more details and to read the full assessment report on Kenya.
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Thank you for sharing the report. I would like to hear your or other peoples views on the statement that
"It is not the extermination of a single group by government forces that seem most likely to occur in this case but rather violence influenced by the constitutional amendments approved during the 2010 referendum which changed the country’s governing structure and devolved political power to the regional and local levels."
Devolution of power was hailed as one of the answers to the woes Kenya faced after the last elections. Do you agree with the view that by entrenching it in the 2010 constitution, what the country achieved was a devolution of bases of violence?
Hi Rachel, it would probably be best if I can have one of the analysts from the team who worked on this report respond to you but in the meantime I will do my best. We also agree that in the long term, the devolution of power will likely be a positive development for Kenya. Our concern is essentially that even with worthwhile reforms such as this, there is still the potential for unintended consequences. With a lot of long-standing grievances simmering at the local level, now that there is more power at stake for local politicians and their support bases, some people may find it attractive to promote inter-ethnic violence in the pursuit of that power rather than leaving this to only national-level actors.
I'm sure this is a useful report but I feel that calling violence of the type that occurred in 2007/08 genocide completely devalues the term. What is the basis for this decision? I find it hard to believe you are anticipating greater violence when there has been so much work by so many Kenyan organisations to prepare the population for a non-violent election.
You are quite right to say that applying the term genocide to the last round of post-election violence would be inaccurate, which is why we don't do that. The report acknowledges that no events in Kenya's modern history could be classified as genocide but points out that such a large case of relatively recent inter-ethnic violence increases the risk of further - potentially genocidal - violence in the future, especially when those accused of organizing the last incident have not yet been brought to justice and still hold positions of great influence.
So we do not wish to discount the excellent work of many organizations working on peacebuilding in Kenya but there is still great reason for concern in what remains a very divided country, especially in light of recent examples of inter-ethnic violence, some of which occurred with the sponsorship of local politicians and community leaders. We feel it is our responsibility to err on the side of caution and comment on the situation with a very tempered optimism.
I just want to thank everyone for your comments so far and say that we welcome and appreciate any feedback and constructive criticism that you may have. The Sentinel Project's risk assessment framework is still in development (and likely always will be) and constant improvement is important to us as we both expand our work to other countries and also begin to broaden our scope from a specific focus on genocide to mass atrocities more generally. Let us know what you think!