Region of Concern: Nairobi, Kenya
Written By Beatrice Cirrone; Edited by Cameron Munoz
Date: May 2, 2023
Kenyan President William Ruto
Event: On May 2, hundreds of people demonstrated against the President Ruto-led government in Nairobi over the rising cost of living and accusations of election fraud in the 2022 election. The protest had already been announced and supported by opposition leader Raila Odinga in previous days, while the government had declared the demonstrations illegal and against public security. Protestors erected barricades in the city center, burned a bus, and threw rocks at armed forces who used tear gas to disperse the crowd, but no arrests were reported. After the March clashes, Odinga suspended the protests to establish a dialogue with Ruto and foster political reconciliation during the Ramadan period. Violence erupted again in May when the opposition rejected the nomination of representatives proposed by the government.
Significance: Despite both sides publicly expressing willingness to engage in political dialogue, the protests will likely gain civilian support as living costs continue to rise and Raila Odinga encourages protests. The protests will likely target institutional buildings in Nairobi, such as the National Assembly and the State House, using homemade explosives and Molotov cocktails. The demonstration will likely lead to increased deployment of law enforcement and water cannons, likely resulting in more violence and arrests of protesters. Government repression will likely exacerbate the social polarization between government supporters and pro-Ruto groups. Civil unrest, boosted security forces, infrastructure damages, and citizen injuries will very likely trigger a setback for the national economy and security, thus boosting the price of basic goods. This situation will likely affect Kenya’s regional role in the African Union and its effort to counter regional terrorism. Islamic terrorists will likely try to take advantage of political instability in the capital and seize territorial control of peripheral areas.
Recommendations: The African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development should urge both sides to select representatives to engage in political dialogue and establish negotiation terms. President Ruto should authorize the deployment of additional anti-riot squads near government buildings and critical infrastructures and provide them with non-lethal equipment, like rubber bullets. The Kenyan government should introduce private military and security contractors to protect prominent political figures, such as President Ruto and the Minister of Defense, and prevent soft target attacks. Humanitarian organizations, such as the International Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, should increase the delivery of basic necessities, water, and medicines to Nairobi to limit the impact of food and socioeconomic crisis. Police should secure commercial buildings, such as banks, and shops using metal plates on windows until the protests end. The government should introduce economic measures to mitigate the price increase of essential food items, such as flour and rice, to contain the effects of the rising cost of living.
 Kenyan police clash with anti-government protesters, AP, May 2023, https://apnews.com/article/kenya-opposition-protests-f0072613f231f611feef3fa75c6ad1fc