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Fear, tension in Kenya violence hotspots

Thursday July 22 2010

Two children stand together as heavy rain falls at an IDP camp. Some residents are returning to the camps fearing violence during the referendum on August 4. Photo/FILE

Two children stand together as heavy rain falls at an IDP camp. Some residents are returning to the camps fearing violence during the referendum on August 4. Photo/FILE 

By FRED MUKINDA, [email protected]

The government is rolling out a massive security operation to ensure peace before and after the referendum on August 4.

In the Rift Valley where some residents have started moving back to camps for internally displaced persons, 15,000 officers will be deployed.

Tension is rising in the volatile province, following the now familiar pattern of intimidation and the distribution of leaflets threatening eviction.

The security forces have identified the areas most likely to experience violence, the so-called hotspots, and directed their resources there.

NSIS to gather intelligence

The officers deployed are from the General Service Unit, Regular and Administration police. Police said they will deploy their officers in three waves.

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“The first stage is under way and involves deploying intelligence officers, from the regular and administration police forces,” said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

The National Security Intelligence Service will work with the other security agencies in gathering information, he said.

In the second stage, additional officers will be sent to police stations in the areas of interest. Such stations will also get additional vehicles.

By the end of next week, another 9,000 special police officers, drawn from Prisons, Kenya Wildlife and Forest services will be gazetted.

“No matter the outcome of the referendum, we expect a peaceful situation. Indicators are not pointing at a breach of peace, according to the intelligence reports so far,” he said.

A recent survey, conducted by Peace and Development Network Trust (PeaceNet Kenya) on behalf of National Cohesion Commission, identified 29 hotspots in different parts of the country.

They include Mathare and Kibera in Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret,  Naivasha, Molo, Kuresoi, Kericho, Rongai, Bomet,  Bureti, Sotik, Trans Nzoia, Burnt Forest, Londiani and Uasin Gishu in the Rift Valley.

Other areas include Mt Elgon, Lugari and Kakamega in Western Province, Borabu, Kuria, Mombasa, Muranga, Isiolo, Kisumu, Nyambene, Garissa and Wajir.

Conflict is likely to revolve around land, opposing views on the proposed constitution and militias in those areas. Internal Security minister George Saitoti has issued a stern warning against those threatening Kenyans.

“The government has a duty to protect all Kenyans. Security agencies will act decisively against those threatening Kenyans,” he said at a meeting in Ngong.

Prof Saitoti reassured Kenyans that they should not be worried about their safety, with only 12 days remaining to the referendum.

Additional reporting by Tom Matoke and Philemon Suter