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Kenyans Working for a Truly Democratic Future

Many Kenyans remain optimistic about the political and economic future of their fragile democracy despite the violent crisis that followed the 2007 election.

Two activists who live and campaign in Nairobi’s slum district of Kibera are working together to ensure that next year’s national elections are a success in all senses of the word, even though they are members of different political parties.

“Kenya needs leaders not dealers,” says Hamza Ahmed. She is helping to organise women voters in Kibera where many people survive on just one meal a day. Home to over 170,000 people, it is just five kilometres from the centre of Kenya’s capital Nairobi.

Kilbera street

Kilbera street, Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by: Kevin Rennie.

Hamza is an energetic, passionate, and persuasive woman in her mid-sixties.  Together with Tobias Omondi, who is organising disabled voters, she is working to end political corruption. According to Hamza, Kenyans are tired of one-time reformers who are self-seekers exploiting their people.  Kenyans are challenging those who promise a better life to the poor but use them for their own benefit.

People like Hamza and Tobias are doing everything in their power to ensure that there is no repeat of the bloodshed during the 2008 crisis that followed the 2007 presidential election. They blame politicians and their friends for inciting people to hatred and violence.

Tobias Omonde, Hamza Ahmed with Kevin Rennie and Boukary Konaté from Global Voices

Tobias Omonde, Hamza Ahmed with Kevin Rennie and Boukary Konaté from Global Voices. Photo by: Kevin Rennie.

Following South Africa’s lead, Hamza has a practical attitude to reconciliation: “We can only forgive those who accept they have done wrong.”

The Mchanganyiko Hall is a local school, women’s centre, and community meeting place for events such as candidate forums. It was opened by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the French Ambassador in early 2012.

Mchangyiko Centre

Mchangyiko Centre, Kibera, Nairobi. Photo by: Kevin Rennie.

Local Kibera resident Tobias Omandi shared the frustrations of working on a rights project for the disabled. “Five per cent of government jobs are reserved for those with disabilities. However most are not filled, as 90 percent do not have the basic qualification at Form Four”. Training is an urgent need.

Steve Banner of the Map Kibera‘s News Network explains in his blog post “How citizen media can help ensure peaceful elections in Kenya in 2012-13“:

In informal settlements and slums such as Kibera, where the post Election Violence was at its peak, the rise of Citizen journalism has helped in information gathering and sharing. Hence becoming a vital tool to spread the message of peace among the youths, who are mostly the target by politicians in carrying out negative vices and violence in the community.

Citizen media can also get to monitor elections from the grassroots since they are community based, hence helping to bridge the gap of misinformation which may have contributed to last post election violence.

They also organise Peace walks within Kibera which help bring together the community and the aspiring political candidates who give speeches preaching peace and togetherness among the community members.

Kibera Cyber Cafe

Kibera Cyber Cafe. Photo by: Kevin Rennie.

Steve’s post won the the Global Voices Summit 2012 blogging scholarship competition that offered six Kenyan bloggers a chance to attend the conference. In Kibera, the internet is used mainly by 15 to 35-year-olds. Although there is access such as cyber cafes within Kibera, the widespread access to mobile phones has made texting a useful means of speedy communication. Time will tell whether texting and other uses of social media can combat the spread of rumour and fear during a future crisis.

Njeri Wangai and Richard Wanjoni, two Kenyans who are bloggers with Global Voices, spoke with GV author Kevin Rennie in Nairobi at the GV Citizen Media Summit 2012 in July about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa in general.

Richard reflected on political, social, and economic issues, including on the role of blogging and the growing importance of citizen media in Africa.

He is a great sports lover and is sports editor of Global Voices, currently coordinating GV’s Special Coverage of the London 2012 Olympics.

Richard also spoke about blogging and the growing importance of citizen media in Africa.

Njeri Wangari is a poet and blogger. She read her poem When Change Comes at the conference. Later she talked about the challenges facing Kenya and Africa today, including political, economic, educational and health issues. She also spoke about her role as a blogger and the growing significance of citizen media in Africa.

Parts of this story was first published on Rising Voices and Kevin’s personal blog Red Bluff. All photos and videos were taken/filmed by the author.

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About The Author(s)

Kevin Rennie

Citizen Journalist

Kevin is a citizen journalist and blogger. He has been active with Th!nk About It and is a Global Voices Online author. He is a retired secondary teacher and trade unionist and has been an Australian Labor Party member since 1972. His interests include the environment, current affairs and the media, politics and human rights. Kevin also blogs about cinema and Australian women writers.

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