Throughout the second week of February 2013, InformAction (IFA) hosted community screenings and discussions in Nyanza in areas that are craving access to civic education and empowerment. From 22nd to the 28th of February we covered areas in the north rift and western kenya, reaching communities in Jasho Malele, Makutana (in Eldama Ravine), Jua Kali (in Eldoret North), Kitale and Bungoma. The purpose of the screenings is to generate a knowledge and understanding of the issues tackled in the documentaries we screen and to give a voice to these people who are so often unheard by those who should be listening: their political leaders. Our first stop was Jasho Malele, a mostly Kikuyu-populated village located 12km from Eldoret and not far from Kiambaa church where almost 50 adults and children were burned to death during the 2007-2008 post-election violence (PEV).
Here, we held a screening of Disputed Fields. Narrated by former political prisoner and seasoned human rights defender Tirop Kitur, the documentary focuses on the contentious land issue in Kenya which has contributed to tension between tribes and was a major factor of the violence which savaged the nation during the PEV.Through brutally honest interviews with so-called outsiders and IDPs, the film aims to erode the idea of tribe verses tribe and poor verses poor, in the hope that the 2013 elections will not result in similar atrocities. As always, a dialogue was held after the screening. Led by IFA Director Maina Kiai, the discussion gave individuals the chance to speak their mind on the issues at hand, and the results were fascinating. There seemed to be a running plea for peace from those who spoke. While the years since the PEV has seen a relative calm fall over Kenya, what became obvious was that this calm is existing without the essential reconciliation which would prevent future outbreaks of violence and murder.
There remains a certain level of mistrust among the communities. Indeed, this was evidenced in the fact that the few Kalejins present watched from a distance, hesitant to engage. Were they afraid to speak their mind in this Kikuyu-heavy arena? We encountered a similar response in Makutano in Eldama Ravine, a small town 90km from Eldoret on the way to Nakuru County, where we once more screened Disputed Fields. Here, in addition to the cries for peace, there was a level of anxiety so high that it was almost palpable, as well as a hesitancy expressed by some to discuss the highly emotive and controversial land issue. Those who spoke of the 500+ sought help and questioned why they were being ignored by their politicians. What the IFA team found particularly interesting was that the locals are delaying ploughing their fields until after the elections, just in case there is a recurrence of violence. How can political leaders allow their people to live in such fear? A number of individuals did express their support of the alliance between Kenyatta/Ruto, because they believe their alliance decreases the tension and likelihood of violence between the Kikuyus and Kalenjins in the wake of the 2013 Presidential Elections.
In Jua Kali, IFA facilitated a live screening of round two of the 2013 Presidential Debate; having screened the first debate on February 10th in Chemelil. With the eight presidential candidates facing tough questions on employment, corruption and land-grabbing, it seemed to be Diba who emerged as a clear favorite of the 700+ in attendance, repeatedly attracting applause for his determination and resilience in insisting that his rivals actually answer the questions asked and address the issues and challenges that face Kenya. While he may not be the candidate that they would necessarily vote for come March 4th, he was certainly commended for his courage and effort during the debate; he demanded solutions while his fellow candidates concerned themselves with veiled attacks and vague responses.
Following the screening, members of the community conveyed how riveting it was to see their leaders firmly disciplined by strict and effective moderators; this being but the second time in history that they would have seen their leaders in such a situation. While it remains doubtful that the debate will actually effect how Kenyans vote this time around, it is certainly possible that the concept will allow for more fair and educated voting in future elections. Our next stop was Kitale, where over 600 locals joined us for a screening of Kesho Itakuja (Tomorrow Will Come), an informative documentary narrated by Maina Kiai, which focuses on victims, justice, and how the ICC process affects Kenya. It is essential for the community to see this in the week before the 2013 Elections, given the fact that Kenyatta and Ruto are both vying for political victory despite the charges of crimes against humanity that they currently face. What was special here was the profound desire of the community to be educated on the issues tackled in the film, given that the area is slightly removed from the prime arenas of the 2007-8 violence.
A venue was freely given to us--by a private citizen--for the purpose of screening the film, and over 600 people came to learn and divulge their own personal experiences. There were a substantial number who had been affected in some form or another, whether they had lost a loved one or been forced to flee to seek safety. Kesho Itakuja was also the film of choice at our final destination, Bongoma. The discussion here was perhaps more informative than anywhere else, with a lack of tension in the area meaning that the people spoke freely regardless of their tribal and political associations. Individuals admitted that they had been bribed by candidates seeking political power, offering Ksh. 25 per person in exchange for a vote on March 4th. We faced tough questions from an eager and courageous community. What can be done about politicians who visit areas promising change only to disappear until the next round of elections? How can we tackle the persisting problem of IDPs throughout Kenya? Can we effectively tackle impunity within the police force who have yet to be held accountable for violent behavior during the PEV? These are legitimate questions which must be answered before Kenya can expect to develop as a nation and truly move on from the catastrophe of 2007-2008.
There are problems which have plagued our history which must be addressed before we can grow. It was inspiring was that, following our various discussions, members of the community vowed to spread the word and amplify our message.PRE-ELECTION COMMUNITY SCREENINGS FEBRUARY 2013 From the 7th to the 13th of February, InformAction (IFA) hosted four community screenings and dialogues throughout Nyanza; in Kisii, Migori, Bondo and Chemelil. Since InformAction's inception, we have held community screenings in ethnically diverse communities in both urban and rural areas in an effort to increase awareness on major issues and to facilitate an educated discussion. Kesho Itakuja (Tomorrow Will Come) focuses on victims, justice and how the ICC process affects Kenya after the naming of the six suspects by the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. Given the fast-approaching 2013 Presidential Elections,now is perhaps a more important time than ever for Kenyans to be fully knowledgeable on the affairs of the ICC, taking into account the fact that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are vying for a political victory despite the charges for crimes against humanity that they face.
We spoke about elections, impunity and our responsibility as voters before March 4th. The documentary, hosted by IFA Director and internationally renowned human rights activist Maina Kiai, was screened in three of the towns; Kisii, Migori and Bondo. At Kisii, a city located in south-west Kenya, the main issue that was brought up in the post-screening discussion related to Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Forced to flee their homes to different areas within Kenya during the post-election crisis in pursuit of safety, these people often find themselves living in campsites or without shelter at all. They continue to be completely ignored by their Government and their political leaders.