Saturday, July 5, 2014

Kenya: Update--Former PM Odinga, 69, to Hold Anti-Kenyatta Rally on July 7, Foreigners Urged to Avoid Streets

According to The Voice of America, a political crisis is looming on Monday (July 7) in Nairobi as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, 69, who lost to Uhuru Kenyatta in his 2013 presidential bid, has planned a major rally in the capital. 

The rally coincides with Odinga’s deadline for Kenyatta’s government to schedule a national forum on the country’s deteriorating economy, national security and political climate.

Kenya tragically has experienced increasing violence by Islamist militants, sectarian backlashes and a crackdown on secessionists. Just last month, gunmen from the Somalian rebel group, al-Shabaab, stormed the coastal town of Mpeketoni, killing more than 60 people and torching properties worth millions.

The specter of violence is reminiscent  goes back to the 2007 presidential election. Fighting that erupted among tribal groups left more than 1,100 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.   

Some groups, fearing renewed violence, are leaving the conflict-prone Rift Valley, Kenyan news organizations have reported.

On Friday (July 4), Reuters reported that religious leaders in Kenya were trying to head off further bloody confrontations. Roman Catholic and Presbyterian leaders discouraged their members from attending political rallies. Anglican Archbishop Eliud Wabukala told the news agency that, “as churches, we have all united in asking for peace and for calm in the country." 

COMMENT: Most Western embassies have been discouraging travel to Nairobi and Mombasa for weeks which is great advice.

If you remain in Kenya, I urge all foreigners to avoid both cities, stay off the streets, particularly on Monday, as protests and violence are likely to occur.

In recent weeks, Odinga has crisscrossed the country and held rallies to encourage dissent.

What is significant is that 50% of Kenya’s 40 million people belong to churches. 

After the Mpeketoni attack, President Kenyatta said the violence was ethnically motivated, despite Somalia's al-Shabaab having claimed responsibility.

The US State Department has already relocated some of its embassy staff and issued travel warnings  to US citizens about the potential for terrorist attacks.

Lamu Governor Issa Timamy was arrested in connection with the Mpeketoni massacre, and has been charged with murder, terrorism and forceful eviction. A high court in Mombasa released him June 30 on a $57,000 cash bail.