By Julia Sestier
George Owero, video reporter at Kibera News Network/Map Kibera looks at the political map of Kibera and Langata Constituencies in Kibera slum ahead of the March election
Reporters in Kenya’s largest slum have devised an interesting method of reporting on the upcoming election.
Kibera is the largest slum in Nairobi and one of the largest and most famous slums in Africa.
Journalists from around the world visit Kibera to report on urban poverty. Hundreds of non-governmental organisations implement programmes on HIV/AIDS, education, sanitation, and other issues affecting the lives of Kibera dwellers.
Kibera is also famous for being one the places most affected by post-election violence in 2007 and 2008, which left 1,300 people dead and forced more than 600,000 from their homes.
But for close to 200,000 people, Kibera is home. Residents are growing weary of the stigma associated with living in a slum and are increasingly bitter about the negative way in which their neighbourhood is being portrayed.
Over the last few years, several media outlets have emerged in Kibera to address the gap in reporting and to give a voice to the residents.
With only a few days to go until the March 4 presidential elections, they are determined to offer another kind of reporting and to contribute to a smooth electoral process.
Putting Kibera on the Map
Map Kibera runs two media projects: the Kibera News Network (KNN) YouTube channel, and Voice of Kibera, an online citizen journalism project. “The mainstream media come to Kibera with predefined angles, which leads to misreporting and exaggerations.” explains Map Kibera’s creator, Kepha Ngito, adding “the aim of these projects is to give the residents of Kibera the self-esteem to speak for themselves, rather than being spoken about.”
In addition to being based on crowdsourcing, the projects are unique in that they publish the information collected on a digital map of the slum.
Before Kepha Ngito created Map Kibera two and a half years ago, the informal settlement did not appear on the map of Nairobi. “Sixty percent of Nairobi residents live in twenty one slum areas,” he explains, “but most of the slums are not mapped and not recognised formally. For many years, Kibera was a forest on the Nairobi map!”
In addition to giving Kibera a formal geographical existence, the map locates service providers, such as police stations, health centres, schools or water and sanitation facilities. Mapping has become a way to engage the community on these issues, thereby contributing to Kibera residents feeling more like entitled citizens.
Online crowdsourced election monitoring platform
Map Kibera’s newest map, a political map, constitutes the basis for an ambitious online election-monitoring platform, which was launched last week.
The digital map shows the location of the forty-four polling stations in Kibera and Langata, as well as the number of registered voters. It is used to aggregate and map the reports received by SMS and e-mail or via the KNN YouTube Channel. The platform is entirely open source, and will be updated in real time on the day of the election.
The aim is not only to inform residents but also to contribute to a smooth and peaceful election in Kibera. As the map also locates the nearest police stations and health facilities, it will allow Map Kibera to pass on relevant reports to the nearest service providers for intervention.
“In the last election the mainstream media was reporting everything that went wrong in Kibera,” says Steve Oduor, a twenty-nine-year-old video reporter at Map Kibera.
“This time, we are going to challenge them.”
Other media outlets have focused on preventing violence. “We have voter’s education and peace programmes during the election period,” explains Thomas Bwire, news editor at Pamoja FM, Kibera’s community radio station. “Peace messages run on air regularly, we cover news in a way that promotes peace and we invite local personalities to come and preach peace.”
The “Pass the Mic” afternoon show is aimed at the youth of Kibera. Held in Shany, the “language of the ghetto,” a mix of Kiswahili and English words, it is the radio’s most popular show. “Young people call and talk about their issues – like unemployment, the lack of resources and insecurity – and they request a reggae song,” said Thomas. The platform provides a unique opportunity to engage the youth, who are the most at risk of getting involved in violence.
The Kibera Journal’s motto is “You deserve to know.” “We inform the Kibera residents about issues that affect them.” explains Leonard Okwako, editor of the community paper. A couple of weeks ago, the Kibera Journal published a special edition on peace. Another special edition focused on the elections will be published this week to encourage people to vote, explain the different steps of the electoral process and discourage Kibera residents from engaging in violence.
The slum reporters are not particularly concerned about their own security at this stage; in fact they feel that they will be safer than the mainstream media. “We interact with this community everyday, this is where we come from. People trust us. Security will not be a problem for our reporters,” said Pamoja FM’s Thomas Bwire.
But proximity to the community also comes with a higher sense of responsibility for the peaceful enfolding of the elections. “We will have to be careful about the language we use, and how we report incidents,” said Thomas. “If you report that tribe A is fighting tribe B it is very sensitive. People will say “they are fighting over there” and will start fighting over here. We will have to judge. Maybe report with a delay.”
Asked how he would describe Kibera, George Owero, video reporter at Map Kibera said “I think it’s the best place to live, even if it is hard to grow up here.” Thomas from Pamoja FM added, “We are living together in peace. We should not let the politicians separate us.”
Source: Doha Centre for Media Freedom