Residents leave for rural homes ahead of polls

Tuesday August 1 2017

Travellers board buses at Country Bus terminus

Travellers board buses at Country Bus terminus in Nairobi on July 30, 2017. Some residents in Eldoret, Naivasha and Nakuru are leaving for their rural homes fearing violence might break out after the elections. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By NATION TEAM
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Dozens of residents living in Eldoret town have begun leaving for their rural homes less than a week to the General Election.

The residents who spoke to the Nation said they were not sure of their safety after August 8 polls.

A spot check by the Nation on Tuesday revealed those leaving were from Western and Nyanza regions and expressed concern about the rising tension in popular estates including Langas and Huruma.

HATE SPEECH

The fears of insecurity have been complicated by circulation of hate leaflets threatening other communities and posting of content loaded with hate speech on social media.

A suspect was two weeks ago arraigned before an Eldoret court accused of posting hate speech on social media while police are hunting for two others said to be on the run in an intensified crack-down on suspect out to cause chaos in the August 8 General polls.

Residents expressed fear that there might be chaos saying that the stakes were high in this year’s elections.

“Since closure of schools last week for the August holiday, most families are moving their loved ones and property upcountry. Some say they are leaving because they fear that violence might erupt after the elections,” said Christine Achieng’ of Kisumu Ndogo in Langas estate.

Ruth Simiyu, a resident of Huruma estate said, “I am going back upcountry because my husband said that the children and I will be safer there compared to here in Eldoret. From the look of things, tension is high here.”

PEAK SEASON

In Eldoret town, the Matatu transport industry is thriving due to a high number of passengers travelling to various parts of the country.

“Usually people do travel during the August holiday when schools close but this time round we are ferrying a lot of them and what is shocking is that most of them are leaving with their personal belongings. I think people are fleeing the region because of elections,” said Mr Polycarp Ochieng’ a bus driver.

Another bus driver Patrick Maina said that they started recording high number of passengers last week and this has seen an increase in fare.

“I believe that there is enough security put in place to ensure that whatever happened 10 years ago does not occur again. On a personal level I feel safe and I will vote here in Uasin Gishu and continue with my daily activities after voting,” said Mary Njoki a business woman in Eldoret.

But in a quick rejoinder, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo assured Rift Valley residents of their safety saying that there was no need for cause for alarm saying the security team was fully prepared for the election.

SMOOTH ELECTIONS

Mr Musiambo reiterated that the election will be peaceful and smooth.

“We are fully prepared in terms of provision of security, protection of lives and property for everyone and we will not allow any form of violence. We have our officers in various places to manage the areas,” said Mr Musiambo.

He asked residents who have received any form of threats to quickly report to the nearest police station so the culprits are arrested.

“We know that there are some people who are just moving from their homes because of fears that are unfounded. All we need is concrete evidence that someone has been threatened so as to deal with the situation before things get out of hand,” added Mr Musiambo.

AMPLE SECURITY

In an interview with the Nation, Mr Musiambo said that no one would be allowed to threaten the life of the other person.

He indicated that police officers have been equipped with sophisticated security gadgets to curb hate speech among politicians.

“We are all aware of what happened in 2007/8 and we will not go back down that road, we will not allow it and that is why we are fully prepared to deal with any occurrence that may arise before it indeed arises,” he said.

Uasin Gishu County Commissioner Abdi Hassan said a team of police detectives have been dispatched to Munyaka, Bahati and muitirithia in the outskirts of Eldoret town.

The leaflets which were dropped last week by unknown people in the wee hours of the night at the door steps of the residents warned them to leave before August 8 election.

“We are now living in fear following the distribution of hate leaflets warning us of eviction on the eve of the election and we appeal to the government to provide us with security,” said a resident who declined to be named for fear of victimization.

Speaking to the media in his office, Mr Hassan urged the affected residents to ignore the leaflets and continue with their normal daily chores saying there should be no cause for fear.

He said that police officers are on high alert across the vast country for any eventuality noting that it was just a matter of time before those trying to cause unnecessary tension and hatred among various communities in the region are brought to book.

“We have deployed adequate security personnel in areas that have been mapped as election violence hot spots to avert any cases of insecurity that might arise before and after the August 8 election,” assured Hassan.

The circulation of the leaflets comes in wake of intense rivalry which is playing out between Governor Jackson Mandago who is defending his seat on Jubilee party ticket and his main challenger, billionaire businessman Bundotich Zedekiah Kiprop popularly known as Buzeki the independent candidate over the coveted seat.

NAKURU, NAIVASHA

Same scenario is being witnessed in parts Nakuru and Naivasha.

Some families are fleeing as the Election Day draws near for fear of violence, despite assurances from security authorities in the region of enhanced security.

A spot check in Nakuru Town revealed that majority of residents especially from informal settlement areas have left for their rural homes where they feel they will be safe during the polls.

On Monday hate leaflets were found in some parts of Naivasha.

Naivasha Deputy Commissioner Isaac Masinde confirmed that the leaflets had been circulated in some part of  South Lake area, adding that they had launched investigations.

PROBE

He assured residents of the security and urged them to “ignore” the leaflets that call on some of the community members to vacate their residential areas.

“We are investigating the issue. We are hoping to arrest the suspect behind the authoring of the leaflets,” said the administrator.

A resident of the area who spoke to the Nation said the circulation of the leaflets had caused fear among the residents residing in the area.

“We are very fearful after we woke up in the morning and found the circulated leaflets. It is really troubling,” said the resident.

Residents especially from informal settlement areas like Kaptembwo, Ronda and Ponda Mali areas have in Nakuru been leaving the areas over the past few days.

Residents interviewed by Nation said they preferred upcountry as they don’t know what will happen after the polls.

SAFE

“I wouldn’t want to be caught in the mix up after the elections. I would rather not vote but be safe in my rural home in Tiriki, Kaimosi,’’said Ms Truphena Nekesa, a resident of Kwa Rhonda estate, boarding a bus to Western Kenya.

Jackline Awour a fish monger at Ponda Mali market, said she was planning to leave the town on Thursday to take her children to her rural home in Siaya because she was not sure of the outcome of the elections.

'’I am not convinced enough to stay because there is a lot of tension, I would rather take my children home because I think it’s safe there,” said Ms Awour.

Last month, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator has warned that those found fleeing their residences will be treated as inciters and will be arrested for creating tension. The administrator said people fleeing will be arrested to explain what they knew that security agencies do not know.

Reporting by Dennis Lubanga, Brenda Gamonde, Hilda Anyango and Macharia Mwangi