Today, the future of Kenya rests in the hands of 14.3 million voters, as Kenyans cast their decision on their next leader. Voters are hoping the new government will bring new-found peace and prosperity to the country, but for many, raw memories of the corruption and riggings from the last elections will shake confidence in the results.
For decades, Kenya was seen as a strong and thriving nation that was a model for other developing countries, but since the 2007/8 election riots, questions have been raised about the state of its democracy. Despite huge efforts to implement a decentralized government, criticism has been made as to whether this is really doing what it planned, which is to provide more power to the people.
Supporters of candidate Raila Odinga – who lost in the previous election – made accusations of vote rigging, and pushed protests into the streets that soon turned into widespread ethnic attacks; causing 1,300 deaths and over 600,000 people to flee their homes.
In the aftermath, four key figures in the country were indicted by the International Criminal Court for directing the violence. One of the four, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is today running for President, will stand trial at The Hague in just over a month on the 11 April. He stands against charges of murder, persecution and rape, alongside other crimes against humanity. He denies all involvement.
Another man, Joshua Sang, will face charges of inciting violence by abusing his position at KASS FM radio in Nairobi. Such abuse is a chilling reminder of the Rwandan Genocide and the key role of the media in inciting hatred and fear in its people.
Thankfully, hate speech has now been curtailed by new laws in Kenya, which stop the broadcasting of any inciting or goading comments. New societies such as Ushahidi have also appeared, to monitor different channels of communication and detect any harmful patterns.
In efforts to prevent any further violence in Kisumu, our Kenyan partner KUAP has been actively holding workshops to teach protection in election violence and to encourage peace in the community. By encouraging positive communication and constructive debates, we all hope to see this year’s elections end in success and democracy.
Kenya has certainly come a long way since the last elections, hopefully making vote rigging and hate speech a problem of the past. Whilst everyone awaits the 2013 election results, we await with anxious anticipation for news from our partners working hard on the ground to stop the kind of abusive cycles that lead to such violence, hatred and fear within citizens that merely want their rights recognised.