Kenyans report during the election 2012-2013

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Timing
Time Period:  
December
2012
to
March
2013
Location and Goals
Country: 
Kenya
Location City/State/Province: 
Kenya
Location Description: 
Election Polling Stations throughout the country
Goals: 
"to work towards building momentum for a mass nonviolent witness for peaceful, transparent free and fair elections" (Chico, Laura Shipler)

"Prevent a return to violence in the communities during elections" (Regan, Cassidy)

 

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As Kenyans prepared for their democratic election to take place on the 4th of March, 2013, they remembered the last time they went to the polls in 2007. The 2007 Presidential elections ended in violence where an estimated 1000 died and 350,000 were displaced. However, since then, Kenya made changes to its constitution. One of the most significant changes supported by Kenyans, is the new political boundaries that were drawn, creating 47 counties around ethnic and clan lines. The government identified 27 of the new counties as particularly ethnically divisive. Because of this remaining division, the Government raised concerns regarding the potential for ethnic violence in the upcoming elections. Furthermore Kenyans were keeping a close watch since Uhuru Kenyatta (Kikuyu) and Raila Odinga (Luo) were running in the 2013 Presidential elections and there was a long-standing history of conflict between their two ethnic groups.

Kenyans organized themselves to serve as citizen reporters at the polling stations during the upcoming 2013 elections. The presence of citizen reporters would remind Kenyans that they were being watched. As partners in the campaign, Laura Chico spokesperson for Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Cassidy Regan from Friends Committee on National Legislation, articulated that their organizations held a similar goal of a peaceful, open, and fair electoral process.

Kenyans were registering to vote at their polling stations in December 2012. During this time, 200 Kenyans volunteered as citizen reporters after they attended training sessions provided by African Great Lakes Initiative. Citizens reported from polling stations if they witnessed any indications of violence. They sent text messages from various polling stations to the call-in center established by African Great Lakes Initiative. The third-party organization indicated that no violence had been reported and all those who were in line for registration by 5pm were allowed to register.

Following the registration, nominations for the various elective positions were taking place. On 17 January 2013 citizen reporters observed the nominations for the various elective positions that took place in their communities. Observers reported the late delivery of ballot papers, bribery during the nominations, and frustration as people waited in line to cast their vote.

At another nomination election, on 17th of February 2013, voters in Turbo waited in line for the doors to open to the polling center. The citizen reporter Benter Obonyo was charged with monitoring the voting in Turbo, a town that experienced post-election violence in 2008. As people waited, Benter witnessed the tension growing. She took action by texting her concern to Friends Committee of National Legislation and African Great Lakes Initiatives’ Call-in Center. Before support staff arrived, Benter phoned the call-in center to find out what was causing the delay. She then addressed the crowed to explain that there was a delay in delivering the ballots and urged the crowd to be patient. This calmed the crowd. With this interjection, Benter went beyond simply reporting the potential of violence to actively preventing it from happening.

On the 4th of March2013, the Presidential Election Day, an estimated 10,000 observers monitored and reported the events occurring at the polling stations throughout the country. Representatives from international groups, including the Carter Center from the United States, European Union and the African Union, joined Kenyan Citizens. The citizens and their allies reported by sending text messages to both the African Great Lakes Initiative call-in center and to Uchaguzi, a monitoring software system.

Uchaguzi placed the messages that were sent by observers on election day in the following incident categories “Polling station logistical issues” 35%, voting irregularities 30%, voter bribing and harassment 15%, “everything is fine” 12% and insecurity 8%. An overview provided by Uchaguzi on 7 March indicated that some voters did threaten violence and arson. However, in the end, much of the frustration reported over the course of the Election Day resulted from technical problems with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission systems. The African Great Lakes Initiatives indicated that there had been no election-related violence and the election experience of 2013 was incomparable to the 2008 elections.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Citizens and IEBC, “Uchaguzi Protect the Vote: Kenya 2013 - March 4, 19:30 update,” last modified November 10, http://visuals.uchaguzi.co.ke

Citizens, “Uchaguzi Protect the Vote: Kenya 2013 - March 7 Uchaguzi Overview,” Last modified November 10, http://visuals.uchaguzi.co.ke

Chico, Laura Shipler. (March 10, 2013) Building Locally Driven Movements – a case of Turning the Tide in Kenya. Retrieved from: http://wri-irg.org/node/21346

Friends Committee on National Legislation. (March 1, 2013). Quakers Mobilize to Promote Peace Before and After the Kenyan Election. Retrieved from: http://fcnl.org/press/Quaker_Press_Release_Kenyan_Elections/

Genocide Prevention Program. (April 11, 2013). African Great Lakes Initiative Report on Observation of March 2013 Kenya National Elections. Retrieved from: http://www.genprev.net/2013/04/11/african-great-lakes-initiative-report-on-observation-of-march-2013-kenyan-national-elections/

Genocide Prevention Program. (April 13, 2013). Kenya: Violence Averted, Peace still Needed Retrieved from: http://www.genprev.net/2013/04/12/kenya-violence-averted-peace-still-needed/

Ground Truth Initiative. (May 2, 2013). Citizen election reporting in Kenya: A failure of technology duplication, or a breakthrough in online-offline collaboration? Retrieved from: http://groundtruth.in/2013/05/02/citizen-election-reporting-in-kenya/

Heather Leson, “Uchaguzi – Kenya elections 2013,” Last modified April 24, 2013, https://wiki.ushahidi.com/display/WIKI/Uchaguzi+-+Kenyan+Elections+2013

Peace Ways AGLI (Spring 2013) Volume vIII Issue 1: 1-11 Retrieved from: http://aglifpt.org/publications/peaceways/spring2013/pwspr13pdf.pdf

Quakers in Britain. (n.d.). Kenya: Nonviolent Social Action. Retrieved from: http://www.quaker.org.uk/kenya

Regan, Cassidy. (2013). Kenya: Friends Committee on National Legislation. Retrieved from: http://fcnl.org/issues/kenya/

Reporter (March 6, 2013) Poll observers laud Kenya elections. Daily Nation. Retrieved from:http://www.nation.co.ke/news/politics/Poll-observers-laud-Kenya-elections-/-/1064/1712978/-/h79m6vz/-/index.html

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Brigitte Dorge 10/11/2013