Having kept peace throughout the 2013 presidential elections, Kenyans look forward. Bukeni Waruzi explains the current situation, and how incorporating video can help to resolve remaining tensions.
Kenyans have just elected Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta as the next president of Kenya, and he has vowed to serve all Kenyans without any distinction of tribe, region or political affiliations. When I was in Kenya to train citizen witnesses and advocates in video advocacy, three questions dominated the first presidential debate: the International Criminal Court, land, and tribalism. These three questions are tied to each other, and to the violence around the 2007 election.
These issues did not lead to comparable bloodshed in March 2013, a credit to the efforts of everyday Kenyan citizens. Land, politics, and tribal relations are issues deeply embedded in the history of Kenya, and will take time to resolve. When incorporated as part of a broader multifaceted program, video can be a powerful tool to address and engage these issues.
In the 2007 election, too few people used video to document the elections; this time around, they mobilized to film and monitor them. They planned ahead, and were prepared to use video for evidence, reference, mobilization, awareness, and more. This video, for example, was created by an activist whom WITNESS trained in February:
Another participant in that training, Leyla Dahir, commented that, “cell phone videos will still be used even after the elections. This technology will play a great role in advancing dispensation of justice where it can be used for purposes of evidence.” She points out that Kenyan law has provisions for the use of video and other electronic records. They have not yet been put to widespread use, but the framework is there.
Perhaps the most pressing legal and political issue facing Kenya is the trial of its newly elected leader at the ICC. The charges stem from the multifarious post-election violence in 2008, which included the death of over a thousand people, and the rape of thousands of women. Kenyan people’s hopes and expectations were high and their determination was real when Kenya was identified by the ICC for investigations. There was a shared sense of impartiality, because no one knew whom the ICC would indict.
In the end, the court charged 6 individuals including Uhuru Kenyatta, the current President-elect. Unlike in the ICC case against Sudanese president Omar Al Bashir, Kenyatta has vowed to cooperate with the investigation and go through the official channels to prove his innocence. The prosecutor’s charges were based on investigation and evidence, and the trial will examine all of these elements more closely.
The ICC has strong processes that ensure a fair trial. President-elect Kenyatta will be treated fairly and his victims will have a space to participate in the proceedings and have their voices heard. Justice administered through the ICC framework will serve all Kenyans; it will provide a deterrent to future crimes, and will enhance lasting peace in Kenya.
Video could be a powerful tool in determining whether the charges are true. Footage captured by citizen witnesses and advocates might be used as evidence before the ICC. The evidence might confirm or disprove an accusation; each party to the proceedings may use video to confirm its claims, and to ensure fair trial.
Assuming that the trial continues peacefully, the two underlying issues will persist. These are always challenging and sometimes lead to violence and tensions: land and tribalism. While video alone is no panacea for long-standing issues, it can play a significant role in helping to resolve them.
Land has been a very long-lasting challenge. Despite the new adoption of the new constitution, which Kenyans of all backgrounds agree is great step forward, the land issue has not been completely solved. As part of a broader effort, video can be a tool to promote transparency and to solve land dispute before a deciding body. It can help by providing evidence to establish truth in fact-finding missions, for example.
One model is WITNESS’s work with partner CEMIRIDE to protect the Endorois community, which was facing eviction from their ancestral land. They prodcued a video that supported their case before the African Commission on Human and People’s rights, which set an important legal precedent when it ruled that the Kenyan government had violated their right.
The other major issue to be engaged is tribalism. While Kenya is rightly praised as a good example of democracy and peace, tribalism is one of the most dangerous issues affecting it. The presidential candidates acknowledged this during some presidential debates. Most believe that the leading tribes in Kenya, the Kikuyu and the Luo, will remain dominant and that access to resources will be disproportionally distributed, both between them and to the rest of the tribes.
Video can be used to initiate an honest dialogue between communities in Kenya, when used correctly and as part of a broader reconciliation campaign. It can increase awareness of shared challenges and shared goals, and mobilize diverse communities to pursue them.
Video can advocate for peace: when asked what videos stood out from the 2007 election, Ms. Dahir highlighted, “video clips showing administration Police Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua urging youths to stand up and maintain peace…. This video clip [is] memorable because it shows that it’s an individual responsibility to ensure that they maintain and advocate for peace.”
The night before the election, Ms. Dahir sent her friends this message:
Kenya ni jina, nchi ni wewe na mimi. Tudumishe amani kabla na baada ya uchaguzi. Ni jukumu letu kila mmoja kudumisha amani. Nimefanya chaguo langu, amani, amani, amani. Je wewe?
Kenya is just a name, the country is you and me. We maintain peace before and after the elections. It’s our duty as individuals to maintain peace. I have made my decision: peace, peace, peace! What about you?”
The outcome of the recent election no doubt reflects the will of the majority of the people of Kenya. As President-elect Kenyatta forms his government, and as his defeated opponent challenges the result, Kenyans must stay focused on their shared values and goals.
Bukeni Waruzi is the Senior Program Manager for Africa & the Middle East at WITNESS. He has expertise in working against gender-based violence, and on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration child soldiers in Africa