Peacebuilding Radio during the Kenyan Elections

25 Oct 2017 0:0

This is a story from the Sentinel Project. To read it in full, click here.

Amani FM was established in Tana River County, Eastern Kenya, in the weeks prior to the 2017 August general elections. The key objective of this initiative was promoting peace and tolerance throughout the elections in a region historically known to have deeply divided rivalry. In the 2012-2013 election period inter-communal violence led to the loss of lives, destruction of property and the internal displacement of thousands of people. Amani is the Swahili word for peace and the concept behind the radio station was inspired by the need to give a voice to the local community, encouraging an open dialogue and an attitude of peace among the communities in the process...

Preparing for elections

On Election Day itself, Amani FM ran a 24-hour live broadcast with anchors at various polling stations and tallying centres, ensuring that we covered results coming in from the National Tallying Centre through the online portal operated by the IEBC. This helped community members to know what was happening with the election without needing to hang around the polling stations or having to speculate on the results. After polling stations closed many rumours circulated, especially after the incumbent sensed defeat. Communities were tense over possible outcomes in the event that their preferred candidates lost. Some individuals went as far as spreading false information in order to cause a rift that would lead to conflict, as has happened all too often in the past. At every step of the way through the tense election, Amani FM has worked closely with the Una Hakika system, working around the clock to verify rumours.

After the voting ended and vote counting was ongoing we received a call from the DCC asking us to assist in dispelling rumours that might lead to a dire situation. Most of the common rumours circulating in the communities were false but widely spread. Examples include:

  • The imminent arrest of certain leaders
  • Leaders inciting incidents in different polling stations or attempting to stuff ballot boxes and steal victory
  • Allegations of leaders working with al-Shabaab to interfere with the peaceful voting process
  • Farming communities stealing cattle from pastoralists
  • Community members moving their women and children to safe zones for fear of the election outcome

With these rumours in mind, Amani FM broadcasted a special programme to educate communities about the dangers of relying on unverified information, providing the toll-free Una Hakika SMS service to receive accurate information in the event they hear worrying rumour mongering. This program also served as an opportunity to dispel the rumours that were already causing tension and mistrust. At points throughout the programming, community members called in live with messages of peace, extending an olive branch to other communities.