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Staying safe now and after elections

The General Election is just around the corner. As per their civic duty, Kenyans will take to the ballot to choose their leaders for the next five years. The political temperatures are high.

Last month, the European Union (EU) warned that the country risks plunging into election-related violence due to the heightened campaigns that appear to be polarising. And as such, it is key that we maintain our cool before and after the period. Inevitably, being safe is a concern that is top of the list.

Peter Kinyanjui, an internal investigation officer at SGA Security, says that Kenyans should be alert. “We are in an era where we can all access news, either from social media or mainstream media. It is important to know what is happening and where. This knowledge will help you make an informed decision,” he says.

However, he warns people to be aware of propaganda, especially being spread on social media. “A lot of propaganda may be spread through the social media platforms.

But that does not mean you become ignorant of things happening around you,” he adds. Additionally, avoid propagating hate speech and be careful what you post on your social media pages, as this can land you into collision with the law. Ken Ouko, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi, echoes this statement.

“In the presence of others, the surest way to stay safe is to either remain a passive member or to partake in the ongoing conversation in a measured and reserved manner, unless of course the others within that social space are well known to you,” he says. Staying safe also include non-indulgent participation in contentious or controversial topics.

“Some topics have the tendency to raise emotions and in case you feel pressed to indulge in such a debate, one is best advised to do so under a pseudo name, although this is also highly discouraged,” he adds.

Also, be conversant with the topography of the place where you will cast your vote. Know the entrances and the exits as well.

The beforehand knowledge puts you at an advantage, as you will also know where to get help from people such as first aiders, police and even fire rescuers. Security On the actual election day, do not disclose who you will vote for at the polls. “Once you have voted, go straight home.

After all, you are done with your civic duty and the rest is not up to you,” Ouko says. Kinyanjui warns people against wearing clothes with colours that are aligned to any party, or any campaign attire. During this period, Kinyanjui further advises people to minimise family outings.

“When driving, activate your car’s lock and do not move about with huge amount of money,” he adds. When it comes to physical security, ensure that your doors are sturdy and can resist forcible entry.

“We are not in any way anticipating violence, but being safe is better than sorry. And as such, your window panes should be fitted with grill to enhance security,” Kinyanjui cautions.

If you have a perimeter wall, you could fit it with an electric fence connected with an alarm. The locks on your doors should be in good condition.

“Install proper detection, tracking and monitoring systems as well as proper lighting in your compound. Remember, most crimes committed during this period are crimes of opportunity,” he notes. In our everyday life, staying safe during this politically charged season also requires one to avoid ecstatic crowds.

“You should be on high alert. The mindset of a crowd is such that if you are not participating in the ongoing activity, then you must be a member of the opposing party and hence one is likely to become an innocent victim of mistaken labelling. At the end of the day, maintain peace and order. Kenya is bigger than us,” Ouko adds.

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