This post by our member Steve Banner, of Kibera News Network (originally posted on the Voice of Kibera) explains how rumours resulted in violence during the recent party candidate nominations in January. A distinct mistrust of official channels of information is evident: if no one knows what to believe, suspicion and anger are quick to arise. This is one reason that Map Kibera is working to build accurate and trusted local networks of information in Nairobi slums during the upcoming elections.
Kibera street political analysts, as I may call them, and rumour mongers, have a very thin line separating them if the happenings of the past few days is anything to go by.
After fierce campaigns on 6th and 7th January, the ODM nominations were to take place on 18th. The 18th came and people went to vote in one peace each confident that his or her candidate will clinch the party ticket.
After a full day of voting, rumours took over and went round on Friday 19th that the ODM Sarangombe county representative ticket had gone to Mr. Owino Ko’tieno, this was later to be confirmed by the returning officer at olympic primary school polling station.
The same rumours claimed that Mr. Amayo, a Kibra MP contestant had clinched the ODM ticket, hours later the same rumours reversed their claim that the confirmed winner was Mr. Ken Okoth. I never got to know how the confirmation came about and never bothered to ask since one didn’t actually need to ask, they would tell it to you anyway.
So I came to believe it when a friend told me that Mr. Ken Okoth had actually updated on social media that he had clinched the ODM ticket to run for Kibra MP.
It was at this point that the street political analysts of Kibera picked the story, and by saying street political analysts, I mean those individuals who stand by the roadside especially at newspapers vending points with a handful crowd around them, as they analyze the political situation of the moment. Try walking at olympic or kamkunji grounds, Kibera on a Sunday and you can’t miss them.
On this day, they took to analyze the possibility of Mr. Ken Okoth winning and how he had done it. According to one such analyst, Mr. Ken Okoth had only won in 2 polling stations and therefore could not be declared the winner. He argued that laini saba area residents had not been allowed to vote, and the area, according to him, was an Amayo stronghold.
As the rumour picked the story and went round with it, breaking it down in different versions, it seemed a group of youths decided to react to the rumour and marched to orange house in kilimani area, which houses ODM headquaters, to allegedly protest over why laini saba residents were denied a chance to participate in the nominations, where they were reported to have engaged in property destruction.
And despite the ODM electoral board announcing on a press conference that no certificate had been issued to any candidate yet, a rumour still went round that Mr. Owino Ko’tieno, who had been announced the winner of county rep. ODM ticket, had been denied the certificate, and, according to the rumour, given to Mr. Kajwang, who was also contesting for county representative ODM ticket in sarangombe. It’s believed that this could have been the reason for the rowdiness that followed thereafter that led to youths engaging in property destruction at Redrose school in olympic, a school that is believed to be owned by Mr. Ken Okoth, who, according to random sources in Kibera, was being accused of working to make sure Mr. Owino Kotieno did not have the certificate. There were several versions of this story depending on who you ask, and which side he/she supported and the mood on the ground. In one particular version, Mr. Ken Okoth is alleged to have been asked who he wanted to work with and mentioned Kajwang instead of Kotieno, but I could never tell who to believe among the several story tellers I listened to.
And even after ODM board made it clear that no certificate had been issued, the youths went ahead to lay barricades along Kibera drive near olympic stage.
Moments later, police from the general service unit were deployed to quell the lawlessness and violence. Running battles ensued, leaving scores of people injured among them 2 journalists from the mainstream media.