The bloody aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence left victims, observers, and participants with a lingering feeling of horror and an instinctual “what just happened?” reaction. Initially, the actual reach of the violence was virtually impossible to track.
With a huge proportion of incidents unreported and unquantified in the wake of the violence, many Kenyans were unaware of the proximate danger and gravity of post-election violence. Those who experienced or participated in the public riots certainly had some picture of what the turmoil looked like, but those not directly involved (especially those in the international community), remained in the dark as to the full effect, for what seemed like a reporting eternity.
Then suddenly, conflict-awareness spread like wildfire, at least in Kenya. How? Credit a website and mobile application called Ushahidi Kenya.
Ushahidi, meaning “witness” in Swahili, enabled people all over the country to report and read about real-time conflict incidences. The brilliant scheme allowed individuals (including those in remote areas lacking internet access) to text in information and photos which were then verified by Ushahidi and posted on the site for general viewing.
Quantified loci of incidences are reported in the following categories: riots, deaths, property loss, sexual assault, internally displaced people, government forces, civilians, looting, peace efforts, extra-judicial killings, and extra-judicial linked disappearances.
Since the 2007, post-election violence has cooled and the use of Ushahidi in Kenya has temporarily declined. There are, however, still urgent and pressing needs for its victims: catharsis, awareness, and prevention.
Photos 4 Peace is an up-and-coming mobile application that may be exactly what Kenya needs. With its highly anticipated release on the horizon, Photos 4 Peace will start as a Nokia phone application. Like Ushahidi, users will text in photos relating to conflict resolution and peace. The application will eventually be available on various basic phones and smartphones around the world. It will most likely be free within Kenya and available for purchase internationally.
Developed by Muva Technologies, Ltd., as a means of promoting peace in the areas in which it operates (East Africa), it will be a much needed platform for image commentary. Its timing could not be better as Kenya gears up for elections in December 2012. The application will be a sure catalyst for information sharing, awareness, tolerance and, hopefully, increased collaboration between political groups and peace organizations.
Partnering with peace initiative NGOS, secretariats, and educational institutions itself, Photos 4 Peace will provide accurate, real-time reports with a meaningful reach. University students far from home will be some of the primary beneficiaries, as they will have access to information about potential conflicts in their area. They will also most likely account for the highest number of submissions, considering heavy social network engagement of that population.
“We are looking forward to working with like-minded organizations to aid in the development of the complete version” says muva founder Evans Ndugwa. After its pilot test in the Nokia’s Ovi Store in Nairobi, the application has already reached 50,000 downloads.
One sure way to work towards peace is to acknowledge, document, and condemn every breech of individual and national security as it occurs. Those who want to prevent larger conflicts must not allow even small acts of meaningless violence to go unreported. This will be impossible if it is left solely up to governments, international organizations, or a legion of soldiers in blue. Peace, in a familiar frame of revolutionary activism, will be the work of people, with phones.
Keep your eye out for Photos 4 Peace, and “become an ambassador for peace in your own community,” as the organization suggests, by downloading the application when it is released.