With memories of the violence that accompanied elections in Kenya in 2007, Kenyan security forces are taking no chances as the countdown to the August 8 general elections begins.
“Over the past few weeks, national security units have shipped in massive equipment such as crowd-control vehicles, guns and teargas to deal with any mass protests after the August 8 elections,” Kenya’s Standard newspaper reported on Monday.
Predicting the possibility of violence after the announcement of the results of another strongly disputed election between incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee and National Super-Alliance flag-bearer Raila Odinga, the security forces have shipped in specific types of hardware.
Some of the anti-riot equipment included the arrival of more than 30 South Korean-made armoured water cannon vehicles over the weekend.
Their arrival supplements a new consignment of anti-riot gear, including teargas canisters, batons, anti-riot clothing and guns that have come through the port of Mombasa.
According to security sources, the new equipment has been distributed to various parts of the country in the past month as authorities prepare to secure the elections.
There is also ongoing training of security personnel in Embakasi, Nairobi, including rescue operations and crowd control, employing the latest technology and methods.
The Inspector General of Police, Joseph Boinnet, warned those who intended to engage in violent activities: “We are ready and waiting for you!”
Following intelligence, the fears of unrest also led to the national elections body asking for 150 000 security officers to be deployed for election-related duties.
Thirty counties have been mapped out by state agencies as possible hotspots.
The agencies involved include the National Police Service Commission (NPS), Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).
On Sunday, prominent IEBC officials and senior security personnel met to discuss contingency plans and operational strategy.
However, Kenyan media and the international Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently expressed concern that authorities were using the argument of preventing inflammatory hate speech to crack down on freedom of speech ahead of the forthcoming elections.
The CPJ warned that new social media guidelines outlined by Nairobi could prevent journalists from reporting critically or close the space for public debate ahead of the general elections.
The guidelines warned that broadcasters would be held accountable for all content aired on their platforms and required social media users to be “polite, truthful and respectful” and to adopt a “civilised” tone when posting political content.