18 March 2013
Written by Charise Frazier Edited By Agunda Okeyo
The Future of the Nation
STOP the BULLET! BLOG
We find ourselves on the cusp of an exciting period in Kenya’s history. Two weeks after peaceful national elections on March, 4 2013, the nation has a president-elect and a number of new government representatives on the national and county level. I surveyed American media posts days before and after the election and read article after article portending a “resurgence of violence.” How unfortunate that American and international news outlets chose to focus on the negative outcome of national elections five years ago. In fact, there were minute occurrences of violence. However, instances of violence on a large and small scale occur in America and abroad every day. Do Kenyan communities deserve to be reduced to inhumane, disorganized beings? In the 2012 election here in America, the threat of riot loomed as certain groups spoke “consequences” if their respective candidate did not win. This was largely ignored by the American media. It was clear that the international media’s narrative of the Kenyan election would continue to be uninformed and irrelevant as to what was actually going on.
If the international media had taken the time to accurately depict the events of election day, the public would have read more stories of men, women and youth standing outside of voting centers, peacefully waiting to elect the next president of their republic. We would have read about countrymen and women of Kenya, coming together, rejecting violence as they voted for public representation. We would have read of the simple, yet heroic task of waking up, venturing to the poll center and then returning home, but I have learned that at times dignity is not sexy, or provocative enough. It does not sell. Kenyans took the international media to task, with witty, sarcastic tweets and faux news postings about events linked to the election. Kenya reminded onlookers with the hashtag “#Kenya decides” on twitter, Instagram and Facebook. As the world watched the nation reminded us that there would be no intimidation or fear to prevent citizens from voting as Kenyans showed over 80 percent voter turnout. Peace became more than just a word or a revolutionary idea. It has always been on the tongues of Kenyan men, women and youth. The international news media can frame any narrative that they want, but the stark reality is that Kenya chose peace and distanced itself from the violent despair and mistrust that is so often placed on the national identity.
President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta has not been officially sworn in as a Supreme Court case is pending on the legitimacy of the tallied votes, though he preliminarily won over 50% of the vote according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). If Kenyatta’s first round election win is upheld his presidency and what that means for the next four years remains uncertain. As it stands, Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, will face trial at The Hague in July and May, respectively, for allegations of crimes against humanity in relation to the 2007-2008 election. However, I find that right after an election there are serious assumptions and predictions made about what’s at stake and who will be affected. To be honest, I am just as unsure as what will happen to us in America, several months after the November 2012 election and the victory of a liberal, forward thinking president.
Writing for the STOP the BULLET! (STB) blog has been a humbling experience. I have learned so much about the Kenyan nation, people’s experiences in the past five years and the importance of not distancing oneself to someone else’s point of view. In the past 6 months, I have interviewed people who have been directly affected by STOP the BULLET! And the community building that its programs provide. I have had to push myself to find common understanding with a cause that at first seemed so different from my own experiences. In totality, STB and its programs may not be fully realized on a global level, but the work that STB does for Mathare and the surrounding communities has a global appeal. For me, knowing that a program like STB is working tirelessly to engage youth in a life of nonviolence and inclusion with local and surrounding communities is worthy of great respect. The community and youth depend on STB and its programming and will continue to use the tenants that the program provides for years to come. Through this experience I have grown as a writer and most importantly as a human being. I’m thankful for the opportunity to cover STOP the BULLET! and the 2013 Kenyan national election . Most importantly, I hope that the next five years bring prosperity and greater respect from the international community as Kenya deserves. Asante.
From the Editor:
The value of STOP the BULLET! (STB) cannot be underestimated. As March 4, 2013 came and went, Kenyans of all cultural perspectives demanded peace during the most elaborate election in the nation’s near fifty year history—which included electing a president, county representatives, senators and governors. More than eighty percent of registered Kenyan voters took to the polls. And within Mathare, the commitment to peace and inclusion, was certainly fortified by the grassroots efforts and leadership of STOP the BULLET! and others committed to a just election within the community.
As the democratic process continues in Kenya with the Supreme Court evaluation of the validity of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) tally of votes, Kenyan continue to challenge international perception. The nation, though buzzing with commentary on the process before it, maintains peace and adherence to the rights laid out in the 2010 Constitution. If the Supreme Court agrees with the evidence before it, alleging gross “poll anomalies,” presidential hopeful Raila Odinga, who lost on the first round of the election, and president-elect Uhuro Kenyatta would engage in a runoff election. Such an outcome would likely invalidate all other elected seats as the nation would reconvene for fresh elections. This is a monumental moment. Kenyans must remain vigilant against indulging hostilities and committed to upholding the constitution they created—together. STB will continue as a voice of nonviolence and community cooperation at this time and in the future whether the first round votes are upheld or not. And as the mission of the organization makes clear, peace is a process, like a nation’s democracy. The work continues and the opportunities for growth and development are endless as we work to STOP the BULLET! for a better tomorrow.
STOP the BULLET! : Make Art. Give Peace.