Friday, April 11, 2008


As promised in my previous post, I want to take a look at the site Ushahidi, which allows citizens in Kenya to report acts of violence during the post-election times.

First, an apology for the lack of posts. The end of the semester always results in an overload of assignments so I have been busy tending to tests, papers and projects. I have many more posts in mind, but have had little time to write them!

As many are aware, Kenya has been experiencing a bit of turmoil since their presidential elections in December 2007. The dispute began after charges that the election had been rigged by the current president, Mwai Kibaki. After learning that Kibaki won the election, riots, resulting in the death of more than 1,000 Kenyans, erupted.

In response to the violence, Ushahidi was established and it is unique in the sense that it relies on citizens to shed light on the chaos via email and SMS reports. What I like about this site is how in-depth it is. Along with the map on the main page, which allows users to sort through the different categories such as looting, rape, deaths, riots, etc. there is an interactive timeline of events. It really gives the viewer a clear sense of how the conflict panned out. It's evident that the bulk of violence occured in the first couple of months directly after the election, but there still is tension in the country with the latest report on the timeline stating, "Anxiety Increases in IDP Camps As Supplies Dwindle" on April 7. Each incident is researched for verification by local Kenyan NGOs. The site's blog also offers thorough coverage of the conflict along with the numerous efforts by people and organizations to help.

Another interesting aspect is how quickly the site was created. Within two-weeks of the rioting, Ushahidi came into existence, which has allowed the site to be so in-depth so early on in the conflict. Other maps chronicling violence usually post information after the fact, such as Google Earth's Crisis in Darfur map.

Although Kibaki and his contender, Raila Odinga agreed to share power in February, there has been a power-struggle for both parties in establishing a coalition cabinet. Odinga suspended talks with Kibaki this past Tuesday, calling for a cabinet equally sharing posts among the two parties and thus leaving Kenya without a clear end to the dispute.

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