The US State Department has issued a travel warning for Kenya ahead of its election

Pre-election chaos.
Pre-election chaos.
Image: AP Photo/Ben Curtis
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The US State Department has issued a travel warning to Americans traveling to or living in Kenya ahead of the country’s general election in August.

Kenya, where disputed election results in 2007 stoked ethnic violence across the country that killed more than 1,200 people, goes to the polls on Aug. 8 to choose a new president.

“Rallies, demonstrations, and protests may occur with little notice and even those intended to be peaceful can escalate into violence,” the State Department said, asking US citizens to “exercise caution.” The statement said the election may also be an ”opportunity for criminal elements or terrorists to target participants and visitors.”

The country’s last election in 2013 was peaceful, but protests leading up to this campaign season have been volatile, causing at least five deaths. A voter registration drive has been marred by accusations of fraud. Critics say that a new law to allow manual voting in case an electronic voting system fails, as it did in 2013, may be a back door for vote rigging.

Some diplomats worry that the international community, which helped mediate an end to the violence after the 2007 election, will be distracted too distracted this time by Brexit and the new US administration.

The travel advisory could also hurt Kenya’s already struggling tourism industry, the country’s second largest source of foreign exchange. The industry is only just now recovering from previous travel warnings by US, the United Kingdom, Germany after attacks on Kenya by the Somalia-based militant group al Shabaab.

Parts of the Kenyan public are also worried about instability surrounding the election. A poll in December found that 61% of 800 Kenyans polled said that election violence was their biggest worry for 2017.