Tororo, Uganda—In this town 8km from the Kenyan border, all eyes today were on the Kenyan presidential election. The attention here isn’t so much on the result, but rather on whether this election will mimic the violent 2007 one.
As the day unfolded here, I spoke about the potential for election violence in Kenya with security officials and journalists who are attending the peace journalism workshop I’m teaching here. The consensus this morning was that there may be sporadic violence, but nothing as systemic or severe as the widespread bloodshed during the last election wherein 1000 Kenyans were killed and 250,000 displaced.
The consensus last summer, when I taught peace journalism seminars in Nairobi and Eldoret, Kenya, wasn’t as clear. There were lingering fears among the journalists that nothing had improved, and that the politicians and the media that fueled violence in 2007-08 hadn’t changed.
However, the Kenyan journalists with whom I’ve been emailing, Facebooking, and Tweeting seem more upbeat today. One journalist Facebooked, “Thanks for peaceful election, Kenya”. Others I’ve talked to are taking the same so far, so good stance.
There was one major violent incident today in Mombasa, where 10 policemen were killed. However, this was an attack by domestic Kenyan separatists and not related to the election itself (though it was timed for election day to cause more mayhem). Otherwise, three people were slightly injured when a bomb went off at another polling place. So far, not perfect, but a far cry from the awful chaos of 2007.
Of course, the headline on CNN is “Sporadic violence mars Kenyan election”. This, of course, is the opposite of peace journalism, since it highlights the violent and sensational. Given what happened in 2007, the headline should be “Miraculous election turnaround for Kenya” or “Kenyans succeed in conquering violence”.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss this further with my experts on site here in Uganda, and report back to you.
For more on Uganda and Peace Journalism, check out my book "Professor Komagum", available at Amazon.com.