The post-election crisis in Kenya has received a good deal of blogger coverage, both at Global Voices as well as the wider blogosphere. Some say the ensuing violence boils down to ethnic animosity. Others insist that such a viewpoint is overly simplistic. Kenya’s post-election crisis has taught us that cell phone airtime can become currency in times of need and that bloggers on opposite ends of the earth can collaborate on a moment’s notice to push the limits of online innovation and usefulness. There has even been a meta-conversation in the U.S. tech blogosphere about whether or not tech bloggers should feel obliged to write about global crises like what has happened in Kenya.
For those of you who have not managed to keep up with the latest developments since Kenyans first went to the polls to cast their votes in the tightly contested election just over a month ago, Ushahidi has put together an amazing Google Maps-based timeline of how violence spread across the country. Also recommended is their blog post “Chronology of The Crisis“, which has a number of valuable links covering the latest developments.
January 25th was an especially sad day for the Nakuru-based Rising Voices grantee project REPACTED. Nakuru had previously been a haven of peace, but that ended abruptly when, as the New York Times wrote, “young men in gangs from opposing ethnic groups are killing each other in the streets with machetes and bows and arrows.”
I recently heard from REPACTED project leader Dennis Kimambo who says that 80% of the population they work with are currently displaced and camping out at the Nakuru Afraha stadium. As I write this, violence continues to spread, especially in Naivasha and around the outskirts of Nakuru. I am sure that all Kenyans fall asleep weary of what the next day’s news will bring them.
You can help in the peacekeeping and relief effort by donating what you can to Mama Mike’s, the Kenya Red Cross Society, or Pyramid of Peace, all of which have been verified by our network of Rising Voices and Global Voices friends based in Kenya. If you are unable to donate money, you can still sign a petition at Avaaz.org pleading for a proper election mediation process.
As depressing as the post-election violence has been for Kenyans and for all who had greater hopes for Kenya’s democracy, the crisis has also proved to be an important case study in how online technologies and a passionate core group of citizen media activists can make an important offline diference with their online activities. Ushahidi.com is an amazing step forward in combining SMS text messaging with an innovative Google Maps mashup to offer real time reporting of crisis events. It is a platform that should be studied and replicated as future crises inevitably erupt around the world. Similarly, the donation portal created by MamaMikes, which has distributed funds to the Kenyan Red Cross society, is a model worth replicating by other online vendors and portals during times of need. MamaMikes has been especially successful in outreach to national and international bloggers. Their recent pictures from the Nakuru Show Grounds reveal what life is like in the temporary camps set up for displaced residents as well as just how important it is that food and basic necessities continue to arrive.
Like Ushahidi, Twitter is another valuable tool which connects the text messaging capabilities of cell phones with the instant reporting and inter-connectedness of Web 2.0. Juliana Rotich, who has been regularly updating her Twitter account as she traveled around Kenya throughout the crisis, points to a post by Malawian blogger and software programmer Soyapi about Twitter’s potential in Africa.
While there are no words to lessen the sting of the violence that has consumed so much of such a beautiful country, we can at least hope that hard work and innovation of Kenya’s dedicated bloggers and online activists will be studied and replicated by similar groups across the globe until one day conflicts lead to communication rather than killing.