Despite reforms to address the shortcomings and violence of the 2007 polls in Kenya, significant structural drivers of conflict remain. Youth unemployment, poverty, and inequality are high, security sector reform has stalled, and ongoing land disputes continue to deepen ethnic polarization. As the planned March 2013 elections approach, the risk of political violence is high.
Two leading presidential aspirants, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, have been charged with crimes against humanity and are due to face trial at the ICC in April 2013, raising hopes that finally a serious attempt is being made to erode long-standing immunity for political elites. But the cases could just as easily dash hopes of accountability if they aggravate ethnic tensions or tarnish political opponents, leading to a fresh bout of violence.
Having an indictee as president, or as vice president, will have enormous implications for not only Kenya's foreign relations but also internal reforms. The 2013 elections will likely play out against a backdrop of threatened attacks by Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab and protests by the separatist Mombasa Republican Council. Either could provoke a backlash against the country's sizable ethnic Somali and Muslim communities, causing further destabilization during what will already be a difficult year for Kenya.
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