Kenya in crisis: a search for citizen cameras…

Posted on January 10, 2008 by Sameer Padania

The crisis in Kenya may ultimately stem from a democratic failure, corruption and tribalism, or poverty and inequality, but either way, evidence of brutal violence continues to emerge, both in terms of killings and of violence against women and girls, and there’s news of an impending health crisis. For a quick tour d’horizon, including ways to act, click “more” below.

Some of the top Kenyan bloggers have been providing compelling updates since the beginning of the election campaign – of those that I read regularly, Kenyan Pundit and Mental Acrobatics particularly stand out – and it’s worth keeping an eye on Global Voices’ Kenya Elections page. That said, we’ve been finding it difficult to track down much citizen video or audio at all from Kenya thusfar – if you come across any, or we’re missing something obvious, please let me know via the comments, or upload it to the Hub. I’ve been wondering why it’s taking time for video to emerge – is the footage out there, but just not online yet? Was it just too insecure and dangerous to film during the first few days? Here’s a by no means comprehensive scour for video, audio and photos out of Kenya in recent days…

Video / Audio / Photos:

The only source providing genuine street-level citizen reporting that I can find is AfricaNews’ Voices Of Africa, which equips local reporters with cellphones, and dubs them “camjos”. It’s a general news site, using traditional media reporters, and the range of post-election reports includes police turning back protesters, and an interview with a Somali refugee, as well as an interview with a tourist industry representative and signs of daily life returning to normal in Nairobi. The reports are of varying quality and interest, but they provide a much more street-level view, and point to the potential video-enabled cellphones might bring to human rights reporting.

It’s not quite clear to me whether this is related to an initiative by Media Focus on Africa, a Dutch-Kenyan NGO, equipped several reporters around the country with high-end video-enabled mobile phones – the reports on this site appear to end on 21st December, before the election.

Over at YouTube, another Kenyan online effort, Kenya Votes, conducted vox pops with ordinary Kenyans in the run-up to the elections, including this young woman expressing her fears about tribalism:

As you might expect, there’s plenty of traditional media coverage on YouTube – Kenya’s own Nation TV, the BBC, Al Jazeera English, and CNN are all putting video reports and interviews online. Rocketboom’s Ruud Elmendorp has a short video report from the days before the election. Currently individual users, like YouTube newbie theweepingsoul, seem to be using news images culled from the web in homages to the photojournalists and other journalists getting images out and in pleas to end the violence.

Kenya Indymedia is beginning to upload some brief audio interviews, including one with a Somali man considering returning to Somalia (mp3) after the recent violence. Slum-TV is blogging, but yet to upload video.

As for photographs, there’s some extraordinary photojournalism online – Reuters and Panos Pictures (click through to the News section for their latest pictures from Kenya), for example – and a quick scan of Flickr reveals a handful of users such as Kenyan photojournalist DEMOSH, blogger Afromusing, and other individuals who witnessed events while in Kenya, but as with video, the lack thusfar of citizen or activist images online has been striking. Blogger Joseph Karoki has been pulling together images from a variety of news sources to provide visual updates.

Mapping:
The UN provided some striking images via satellite, showing the worst concentration of violence by looking at the number of fires burning, available in lo-res (1, 2) and hi-res (1, 2) (via IRIN).

Perhaps the most promising and practical initiative to date is Ushahidi (via White African), a Google Maps mashup enabling individuals to report incidents of post-election violence, including some video already (taken by Afromusing). What’s particularly interesting about this is that the incident reports are being verified with local civil society before being posted, but individuals visiting the site can also submit further information related to particular incidents.

Ushahidi.com - Burning of Houses in Kapsoya

It also demonstrates how rapidly these new tools can be adapted and updated. One commenter asks that “rape” be added to the list of incidents, and lo, there it is. As a basic template for tracking this kind of crisis, it’s a very good start. Inclusion of some kind of timeline, a la Oakland Crimespotting, would be a useful addition, but for 2 days’ work, kudos goes to the team (Kenyan Pundit, Mental Acrobatics, and White African).

Ways to act:
Pambazuka has been active in coordinating with a wide cross-section of civil society, calling for assistance in establishing Rape Crisis Centres, setting up an international petition, and posting regular updates on its Action Alert Blog, including a planned March for Peace, Truth and Justice today.

Avaaz has a tool to help individuals to write to their Foreign Minister to call for a transparent inquiry into the disputed election.

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  7. Sameer Padania January 23, 2008 at 2:49 am

    Here's some more raw video, reportedly from Eldoret:
    http://www.stopkenyagenocide.com/videos.html

  8. Joshua Wiese January 19, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    No not at all Sameer – no hat tip needed. I commented excitedly, before even finishing your post. Thanks for the really thorough update.

  9. Sameer Padania January 18, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Hey Josh – thanks for those tips (there is a link to Media Focus in there – and I rudely forgot to hat-tip you!)…

  10. Joshua Wiese January 18, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    If you're interested in following another aspect of this crisis, perhaps catching a few more perspectives, I recommend the Kenya Elections 2007 project of Media Focus on Africa.

    Nokia hooked up with a few NGOs to train volunteer citizen reporters and arm them with camera phones. These citizen reporters have been making short films on the election and posting them online for months now and they've all got really deep insights into what's going on.
    http://www.mediafocusondevelopment.com/

    The video is so heavy. Anyone watching can picture themselves recording it on their own phone as if they were there.

  11. Joshua Wiese January 18, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I couldn't believe the quick video story I caught on BBC's website last night: not sure how to create a link here so you'll have to cut and paste,
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7190000/n….

    Really upsetting stuff to watch. Really upsetting. My heart goes out to everyone caught up in all this and I'll do what I can to help.

  12. Jules Rincon January 10, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Great coverage. Maybe when people notice that videos are being picked up by media, and that they start getting attention, people will start making and uploading more videos online.
    One can hope.

  13. Sameer Padania January 10, 2008 at 4:50 am

    A similar survey has just gone up over at GV:
    http://www.globalvoicesonline.org/2008/01/10/keny

    and for those on Facebook, there's a set of videos you can watch:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/?oid=6646557909

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