Kenyan elections prompt ‘stocking up’ in Uganda and beyond


As the elections in Kenya are drawing nearer are Ugandans, but also the people of other hinterland countries like in South Sudan, Eastern Congo, Rwanda and Burundi stocking up on essential commodities, including fuel, driving prices for petrol and diesel further up and threatening an artificial shortage through panic buying.

Many in Uganda remember the dark days after the 2007 election in Kenya when in early 2008 the supply lines from Mombasa were effectively cut, with Uganda bound trucks often looted and burned by angry mobs in Western Kenya which were incited by their political masters there over the swift recognition of President Kibaki’s re-election by the Ugandan government at the time. In addition were the railway lines uprooted by supporters of the losing candidate at the time, leading to ‘better preparedness this time’ as a regular tourism source in Kampala put it to this correspondent yesterday. ‘It is just 12 days to go now and we have stocked up on fuel and other items we need to do our camping safaris. I have also stocked up at home because last time, already the day after New Year, fuel in Kampala was in short supply and eventually ran out in many stations. Even food stuffs from Kenya, in fact all our imported items from Mombasa, failed to arrive and it caused a lot of hardship for us as a company but also for the country. We cannot be sure what happens this time so we are better prepared now’ – a sentiment echoed from sources in Rwanda as well as in Juba / South Sudan.

The Kenya government has in the meantime mobilized scores of retired police and army personnel to supplement the regular police, GSU and army units now going on to high alert status ahead of the elections with deployments already rolling out into known hotspots like Kisumu, where even the nomination process a few weeks ago resulted in riots, a pointer that this hotbed of Kenyan politics is still a powder keg.

Our government is prepared this time. In fact, our security organs are facing two major challenges. One is the threat by Al Shabab remnants to disrupt our election process. That threat has been there for a while and been quite contained apart from a few isolated incidents. The other issue are elections hotspots. We expect that security personnel will be out in force, very visible, and stay in place until election results are announced and winners in all the elections announced. From what I gather there are enough stand by troops still kept in reserve to deploy should trouble start somewhere and local forces require more manpower. Unlike last elections, this time the government is taking no chances so we are cautiously optimistic that there will be no repeat from 5 years ago.

About your question on tourism arrivals I have to agree that numbers are reducing right now but I should stress that even 5 years ago not one tourist came to harm. Resorts were safe, hotels were safe, safari lodges were safe and our safari vehicles were never stopped or looted or attacked by mobs. The associations are working closely with the authorities and KTF will again be a key platform to inform members. So let us for once be a bit optimistic and if the media play their role with good and accurate reporting we shall be fine’ wrote and said a regular senior tourism stakeholder overnight, understandably on condition of anonymity for no longer being a serving official in the Kenyan private sector setup.

Ugandan sources also dismissed as ‘badly misspoken’ comments attributed to an individual at the Uganda Tourism Board over benefitting from the election fever in Kenya by attracting more tourists to Uganda, saying they wished their Kenyan brothers and sisters the very best in the days ahead and that none preferred to benefit from the potential misfortunes of others in the region. ‘I was not there when those comments were made but what came through in the media sounded like a very bad faux pas. We know if Kenya has a cold we get pneumonia here in Uganda and those comments if correct where very out of touch with reality and really not reflecting general opinion’ quipped a regular contributor from Kampala when asked to comment, off the record no wonder.

Local hotels in Kampala and across the country are reporting a number of extra bookings from Kenyan sources for accommodation ahead of and over the election period as in particular members of the Asian community are preparing to take a ‘holiday’ across the border, a trend which reflects what has happened ahead of past elections, not just that in 2007, when entire families came across the land borders in Busia and Malaba to ‘ visit’ Uganda for a few days before eventually returning to their Kenyan homes.

Watch this space as the final countdown is now ongoing towards the March 04th elections in Kenya.

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