David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator
successful pilot project for the 2010
Burundian elections, AGLI decided to implement a more ambitious
project for the 2013 Kenyan elections. The concept is to train citizens
to become “citizen reporters” and connect them with a Call-in
Center where they can text any information they gather in their community.
The whole election cycle is observed and not just election day itself
since much of the fraud and intimidation occurs before the election,
and post-election violence is possible as occurred on a massive scale
in Kenya after the December 2007 election. We conducted thirty-four
trainings and enrolled 1,204 citizen reporters in our network. One aspect
of this is that many of these citizen reporters are in remote places
where the media never goes.
the citizen reporter training at Lumakanda Friends Church. There were
thirty-eight participants with two facilitators. The five hours of training
were filled with discussion, role play, guidelines for citizen reporters,
and security concerns. To give an example, one topic was “indicators”
of potential violence. The analogy was made with the turn signal on
a motorcycle which only indicates what the driver intends to do rather
than actually doing it. So the citizen reporter needs to be aware of
indicators of violence such as hate speech or development of youth gangs.
These are what are needed to report to the Call-in Center so that remedial
action can quickly be taken.
18 was the last day to register to vote and the Kenyan custom is to
wait to act to the last moment before a deadline. For the last two days
of the month-long registration, Peter Serete, the Coordinator for the
Call-in Center, texted the 900 citizen reporters we had at that time
and asked them to go to their polling stations and see if the ending
process was orderly and proper — for example, that those who were
in line at 5:00 PM were allowed to register. Over 200 of the citizen
reporters sent in text messages and there were no significant reports
of major problems.
17 most political parties in Kenya had their nominations for the various
elective positions. We texted our citizen reporters and asked them to
observe these nominations in their community. We got many messages of
late delivery of ballot papers, anger at the waiting, and bribery during
the nominations. Then the major political campaigning began and the
citizen reporters mostly reported numerous cases of bribery by the local
politicians and their agents.
There is no point in receiving good accurate information if nothing
is done about negative situations that are reported. As we developed
this program, I was worried about how we might respond to incidents
of intimidation and violence. Our time and energy concentrated on reacting
to the information we received.
serious reports we received were from Mt. Elgon. From 2006 to 2008 this
area had an armed conflict between two clans of the Sabaot in which
about 600 people were killed and another 100,000 displaced. We have
responded with five citizen reporter trainings on Mt. Elgon for 189
citizen reporters. We had just finished our first workshop there on
August 15, when the Call-in Center received a report that one of our
original HROC participants had been assassinated in his home. The next
morning, a few of our HROC facilitators/citizen reporters visited with
the grieving wife and asked her if one of them could speak at the funeral.
She agreed. We texted our local contacts and about forty of them attended
this funeral. Erastus Chesondi, our lead HROC facilitator and citizen
reporter on Mt. Elgon, gave a strong peace message at the funeral. We
also attended a chief’s meeting to discuss this situation and
the FCPT/AGLI participants gave their feedback. Soon thereafter four
more people were killed, a school was burned down, and hate leaflets
were distributed ordering all those who were not born on Mt. Elgon to
return to where they came from. This led us to increase our response.
We conducted civic education seminars. Before these incidents, FCPT/AGLI
had held four HROC workshops for about 80 individuals. In January, we
trained eighteen healing companions (eight women and ten men) from Mt.
Elgon at the Peace House at Lugari Yearly Meeting. We brought Theoneste
Bizimana from Rwanda and Florence Ntakarutimana from Burundi to lead
this training — this shows the interaction of the work we do in
the region. Just before the election these apprentice facilitators together
with lead facilitators conducted 8 basic HROC workshops on Mt. Elgon
for about 160 people.
Joe Ossmann, Benter Obonyo, and Ezra Kigonbu will now do an assessment
of the work on Mt. Elgon by interviewing 60 to 80 people including facilitators,
participants, and government officials to determine how effective our
work there was in minimizing the violence. Their results will be in
the next issue of PeaceWays-AGLI.
our guidelines is to work with all sides in any conflict. This includes
the government officials who have little guidance or training on how
to resolve the contentious issues that are arising in their communities.
In one of our HROC workshops on Mt. Elgon, two chiefs and three sub-chiefs
(these are the community level-government officials in Kenya) attended.
In another example, Getry Agizah, the FCPT coordinator, was asked by
a local police commissioner to meet with her police officers. Getry
met with 45 officers and could feel the fear inside them. They told
her that they wanted the public to understand that they are also human
and have feelings.