The United States Embassy in Nairobi has imposed movement restrictions on its personnel in Kisumu, even as the State Department reminds US citizens of the need for sustained vigilance ahead of Tuesday’s general election.
Citing what it termed as “abundance of caution”, the embassy cautioned Americans against travelling to Kisumu during elections, saying election-related demonstrations may occur, and in some instances turn out to be violent.
Kisumu is the bedrock of Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga, who is a frontrunner against his main rival of UDA party Deputy President William Ruto.
The mission further noted that election-related demonstrations and rallies regularly take place in the run-up to the election and are likely to continue, at times blocking key intersections and causing traffic jams.
“Demonstrations may occasionally be violent, requiring police intervention. Strikes and other protest activities related to economic conditions occur regularly,” the embassy said in its security alert on August 2.
The US embassy urged its citizens to monitor local media for updates, avoid crowds and demonstrations as well as be aware of their surroundings, among other cautionary measures that include not displaying signs of wealth such as wearing expensive jewelry or watches, reviewing personal security plans, having travel documents up to date and easily accessible and also carrying proper identification, including a copy of the bio-page of their US passport with a copy of a current Kenyan visa.
Kisumu county is among the 23 counties the National Cohesion and Integration Commission in February this year flagged as possible hotspots for violence before, during and after the August elections.
In May, the NCIC further said the country’s potential for election-related violence stood at 53.43 per cent.
In its survey, the NCIC categorised the potential for violence in three classifications: High risk (71 per cent and above), medium high risk (54-70 per cent), medium low risk (35-53 per cent) and low risk (0-34 per cent).
Kisumu was among the six counties with a high likelihood of experiencing election-related violence at 72.46 per cent. Others are Nairobi (79.85), Nakuru (75.77), Kericho (74.81), Uasin Gishu (72.25) and Mombasa (71.15).
The commission said the figures were arrived at after three sub-indices; pre-existing conflict factors (53.58 per cent), potential triggers (53.4), weak institutional capacities (53.32), were scrutinised in a study conducted between January and April.
It noted that the Rift Valley and Nyanza, according to the report, remain the most volatile regions in terms of violence as the election period draws nearer.