Kenyans Mixed on Whether Election Violence Could Repeat

by Christine Delmeiren

Less than half believe people responsible will be prosecuted

NAIROBI -- Kenyans vote on a new constitution Wednesday that includes reforms to help avoid a repeat of the violence that nearly tore the country apart after the 2007 election. For the most part, Kenyans surveyed earlier this year were mixed on whether such violence will happen again after the next elections in 2012, but a slim majority (53%) don't think it will.


Following the disputed presidential election in December 2007, more than 1,300 Kenyans were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced. The violence, as well as the stalemate between the two sides claiming election victory, ended in late February 2008 when they agreed to form a coalition government. Adopting a new constitution was part of this agreement. The new constitution will curb some of the president's extensive powers, which analysts say led to abuses of power that fueled the unrest.

Prosecuting those responsible for the post-election violence was also part of the agreement. Kenyans surveyed in February 2009, before the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its official investigation into the violence, were divided on whether they thought the main actors will be prosecuted; less than half (46%) believed this will ever happen. Despite initial promises to cooperate with ICC's investigation, Kenyan political expert Wafula Okumu told the Christian Science Monitor in late March that some leaders were already working to undermine the probe.


Kenyans' division on these two issues ahead of the referendum vote suggests much work remains as the nation comes to terms with the crisis that nearly destroyed it. A peaceful vote Wednesday will be a positive sign that this process is still on track.

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Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted Feb. 5-17, 2010, in Kenya. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.8 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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