, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 28 – The head of Kenya’s truth commission has warned that clashes between supporters of rival political groups could escalate into widespread, serious unrest if left unchecked.
Civil society groups, too, are calling on political leaders to work with community elders who might be able to play a mediating role, curb incitement to violence, and encourage greater political tolerance.
Bethwel Kiplagat, chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) told IWPR that he was “deeply concerned” by skirmishes that have broken out at political events across the country over the last few weeks.
“Whatever is happening is worrying, and if we leave it we may pay a heavy price,” he said in an interview in Nairobi.
The TJRC was set up in 2008 after widespread political and ethnic violence – sparked by a disputed presidential election result in December 2007 – led to the death of more than 1,100 people.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have been charged at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for orchestrating the bloodshed.
Through September and October, Kenya has witnessed a series of clashes between supporters of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and President Kenyatta’s ruling Jubilee coalition.
Tensions between the two gathered force as CORD leader Raila Odinga, a former prime minister, campaigns for a national referendum on amending the 2010 constitution. The proposed changes would cover such issues as electoral reform, the security situation, and local government.
The Jubilee government is vehemently opposed to the referendum plan.