Kenyan authorities said Tuesday they have beefed up security in parts of the northwestern region following circulation of hate leaflets ahead of next week’s general elections.
Fred Matiang’i, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Interior and National Coordination said eight suspects have been arrested in connection with the hate leaflets that have recently been circulated in parts of the Rift Valley region.
Matiang’i said the suspects who are set to be arraigned in court were arrested through a multi-agency operation even as police intensified the hunt for more of their accomplices.
“Police have arrested eight suspects in custody in connection with the circulation of those leaflets, and investigations continue. We have teams on the ground that have been working here for a long time, and we are collecting more intelligence in real time,” he told journalists in Nakuru town, in northwestern Kenya.
Matiang’i said the investigations will be extended to the masterminds of the leaflets whose content warns members of certain communities of retribution if they fail to elect particular leaders.
The hate leaflets are intended to spread fear and panic among Kenyans of different ethnic communities living in Rift Valley, which is the most expansive region with unique policing challenges linked to the election season.
After the general elections in 2007, inter-ethnic clashes and police violence left about 1,300 people dead and 650,000 displaced.
Matiang’i said the government has increased the number of police officers and other resources deployed to secure the elections across the country.
Matiang’i announced that a multi-agency command center has been established in Nakuru to coordinate harmonized responses to arising issues linked to next week’s poll.
Kenya will go to the polls on Aug. 9 to elect a new president and national lawmakers, as well as the governors and assemblies of its 47 counties.
The August election is set to be contested between two major political alliances — Kenya Kwanza headed by Deputy President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.