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Elections and Security: By the Numbers

  • Posted by: Lloyd Gitonga

“We have been monitoring the security situation across the country in the build-up to the elections and, while we have faith in the surveillance and mitigation measures that the government has put in place, we are also getting our systems in preparation for any eventualities.”-John Ogutu, Securex Senior Operations Manager.

With less than two months to go to the August 8th general elections, political tension continues to rise across the country. Clear political lines have been drawn and the emotion stirred up by ongoing political debate and rhetoric exacerbate the situation even further. The most recent controversy to split public opinion, the award of a tender to print ballot papers to a firm thought to have ties with the sitting government, is just one example of this.

Now we have been keeping an eye on things as far as security is concerned in a bid to map out trends, potential hotspots and to inform our risk mitigation strategy in as far as the elections are concerned. The link between politics, elections and crime has, in the past, been directly proportional and this year has so far proven to be no different. We have noted a steady increase in activity related to the elections country-wide, ranging from riots and demonstrations to murder and arrested suspects.

From our database, we noted as many incidents in April 2017 for instance as we did in January, February and March combined. Perhaps it isn’t coincidental that this spike coincided with the party primaries, which were hotly contested particularly in areas identified as a certain political party’s “stronghold”. These are areas where various political aspirants battled it out for a party ticket in the knowledge that a win in the primaries was as good as a win in the August polls.

Of all the activity that we noted related to the elections, 46% comprised of riots, demonstrations and altercations. We also recorded at least five fatalities and 20 suspects being arrested over offences ranging from assault to election malpractices, with scores being injured in various demonstrations and altercations with either rival supporters or security agencies. Arrested suspects constituted 18% of the activity we recorded, with arson and vandalism of voting material and polling centres making up a further 11%.

It is vital, then, for you to keep abreast of all that is happening within your locality in real time. It would be advisable for you to subscribe to various security alert or briefing services just to keep an eye on things, particularly for those of us who are always on the go. It would probably be for the best if you mapped out all the polling centres around where you live, where you work and those along your daily commute as well. With the advent of the digital era, it has become infinitely easier to stay up-to-date with what’s going on in your area. Also remember, sharing is caring. Should you pick up on an incident, be sure to notify your friends, family and loved ones in good time.

Citizens are encouraged to share critical information regarding security to the authorities and warn friends, family and loved ones of the same in good time. However, we should also exercise caution with regards to the messages we forward to each other. It would be prudent to only give particular regard to information from a trusted, credible voice,” Mr. Ogutu noted.

Another point of interest from the data we’ve collected in the past few months is where these election-related incidents took place. There was a particular concentration of these incidents in public areas and in polling stations, which primarily happen to be public primary and secondary schools spread out country-wide. This brings security in schools into question leading up to the polls.

“It might also be worth noting that many public schools will be used as polling stations during the national elections in August, posing an added risk to security in these areas. We already noted a number of incidents during April’s party primaries in some of our schools,” Mr. Ogutu added.

It is also advisable at this point to avoid crowds or large gatherings if you can help it, and avoid areas where political rallies are being held unless you’d like to attend the rally. If that is the case, you should consider not going with your young ones and be sure to let your family and friends where you are headed and when you intend to be back. Remember, riots and demonstrations are often not planned and such fluid situations could easily turn violent and lead to unwanted run-ins with state security.

Going forward, we’re also gearing up as the country shapes up for a political showdown on August 8th, 2017. We’ve been stepping up our intelligence-gathering and mitigation measures in recent months in a bid to keep you informed of what’s happening particularly in the nation’s capital.

“With particular regard to Nairobi, we’ve borrowed from our experience in past elections to map out potential spots where we feel trouble could escalate. This then informs our information and intelligence-gathering mechanisms and allows us to strategically distribute our manpower and response units to cover these areas. We aim to ensure that we stay on top of all happenings in the run-up to the polls, and our clients will always be in the know as a result,” Mr. Ogutu concluded.

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