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Kenya: Rights group warns of intimidation of voters ahead of poll

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday urged the Kenyan government to urgently investigate allegations of threats and intimidation between community members in Nakuru County’s Naivasha area as the August, 2017 elections approaches.Naivasha in Rift Valley was among the areas with the worst 2007-2008 post-election violence, in which inter-ethnic rivalries over land and power, stoked by politicians, left over 1,100 people dead.

The US rights group said that many people in the town of Naivasha described threats and intimidation between community members, but said that police have failed to investigate the threats, prosecute the culprits or protect residents.

“All Kenyans should be able to take part in free and fair elections in August without fear of violence. Kenyan authorities should do more to prevent a repeat of the 2007 bloodshed in Naivasha,” Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at HRW said in Nairobi.

According to HRW, some real or perceived opposition supporters in Naivasha said that they have begun to pack up their belongings to flee the area out of fear of a return to ethnic conflict.

As registered voters in Naivasha, they would not be able to vote in other parts of the country.

During the violence that followed the 2007 presidential election, more than 650,000 people were displaced across Kenya. Naivasha subcounty in Nakuru county was hit hard, with supporters of the then-ruling party beating, killing, and forcefully circumcising opposition party supporters.

The 2007 attacks and killings were never adequately investigated or prosecuted. One woman in the town of Nakuru told HRW.

“When elections come, old wounds are revived and people turn on each other when politicians incite them,” she said.

HRW documented at least six incidents of direct threats against opposition supporters, with people from both sides of the political divide saying that such threats were increasingly prevalent.

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