Monday, January 14, 2008

For the Record - We're Watching


Many of us have heard about or seen the chaos that has unfolded following the elections in Kenya on December 27th, 2007. Media outlets that rarely cover African affairs have shined their lights on the East African state as it has been experiencing ethnic turmoil in the wake of the hotly contested and reportedly, highly flawed presidential elections between incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga. Though Raila Odinga was the frontrunner in the polls leading up to the election and took an early lead in the ballot counts, Kenya's electoral commission pronounced that Kibaki had won a second term in office, a decision that sparked violent riots and protests across the country, among other atrocities. The dust has mostly settled at this point and communities are beginning to rebuild, but nearly 600 people died in all the commotion and an acceptable agreement between Kibaki and the opposition has not been reached. While the Kibaki administration attempts to claim its legitimacy to the international community, the Kenyan people struggle to recover from the violence that tore through their cities, towns and villages.

To let the people know that they are not being ignored a website called ushahidi.com was created for Kenyans to record on a map (courtesy of Google Maps) what kinds of events have occurred in their communities. Incidents of rioting, death, property loss, looting, rape, and peace efforts can be recorded and viewed on the map with information detailing the date, time and a description of the event. In addition, some of the best coverage of the hullabaloo in Kenya did not come from international news networks like CNN, it came from Global Voices Online, a collection of blogs from around the world that showcases the different perspectives of those that are actually experiencing the events on the ground. You can find Global Voices' extensive election coverage here along with a video clip:

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/01/02/kenya-do-not-doubt-the-power-of-the-internet-in-africa

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/01/11/kenya-bloggers-seek-to-heal-a-wounded-nation/

http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/01/10/kenya-moving-images-of-unrest-and-hope/


While the Kenyan election has not been an example of an effective democratic process, Kenya, under Mwai Kibaki can come together with Raila Odinga's opposition group to find a path to an effective reconciliation and allow peace to be associated with Kenya once again. Though nobody enjoys seeing violent riots like those that occurred recently in Kenya, they did prove that the citizen advocacy movement (ie. blogging, texting, youtube) is there to give a voice to the voiceless and make sure that nothing and nobody is swept through the cracks.

Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/NYT

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