Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Experts: Peace will prevail in Kenya

Tororo, Uganda—The majority of experts gathered here today 8km from the Kenyan border believe that peace will prevail in the aftermath of yesterday’s Kenyan election.

The journalists, government officials, and security officials at our peace journalism seminar here believe that peace will prevail for several reasons. First, they said that Kenyan security officials are much more alert and prepared than they were in 2007, when post-election violence claimed 1000 lives and displaced 250,000. Second, they said that the Kenyan people are fed up with violence, and committed to peace. When I taught in Kenya last summer, I witnessed this same impatience with violence and chaos. The Kenyans I met had a hunger for peace, and hungrily lapped up the peace journalism principles that we were teaching.

However, there is one journalist here in Tororo who still believes that violence will break out once the final election results are announced. His colleagues refuted this prediction by quoting statements from both of the major Kenyan presidential candidates who have vowed to peacefully accept the results. Let’s hope this is one promise that the politicians actually keep.

Kenyans deride international media coverage

On Twitter, Kenyans are striking back at what they perceive to be biased, sensational international media coverage of their election. (See my blog from yesterday) Two smart-alecky hash tags, #SomeoneTellCNN and #PicturesforStuart, are lampooning coverage that seems pre-ordained to emphasize the negative instead of trumpeting what has been a vast improvement over the 2007 election. Some of these snarky Tweets include:

--Dramatic! "@rimbui: Armed w/ MACHETE & spoons, Kenyan man destroys a plate of rice! Cc @stuartf24 #PicturesForStuart pic.twitter.com/yZlV6CIZWt"

-- Mangled body found in bathroom. #SomeoneTellCNN pic.twitter.com/HrnZzNEIOG #PicturesforStuart (The attached picture is of a dead cockroach).

-- #SomeonetellCNN: Foreign Journalists stranded in hotels as PEACE makes it difficult 2 do their job. #KOT

-- LMAO: Fires ignite in the kenyan capital as city residents make morning tea #someonetellcnn

--BREAKING: Foreign reporters clash in #Kenya amid growing scarcity of bad news. #kenyadecides

Meanwhile, Kenyan activist Sasha Kinney and her colleagues are compiling a list of what they deem “generally appalling global media coverage surrounding the elections.” See : www.storify.com/knk .

In an email today, Kinney added that “we are thankful that global media does not get much play here in Kenya -- and national media has been really good! -- because it could have been seen as inciting violence, mostly for reasons Martin Scott outlined in : http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/martin-scott/kenyan-elections-five-things-we-can-learn_b_2764075.html .”

One silver lining is that the reflexively negative, pre-ordained international media coverage of the Kenyan elections should provide invaluable ammunition for those of who advocate peace journalism.

...Steven Youngblood is author of "Professor Komagum: Teaching peace journalism and battling insanity in Uganda", and director of the Center for Global Peace Journalism at Park University.

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