“The Peace Room” at The Tribe
I took this panorama shot with my iPhone inside room 415 at the Tribe Hotel. It was three days after Monday’s election. It captures the positions the Sisi Ni Amani office team took through much of this long election week. Each team member juggled two or three cell phones and tapped away on lap tops. All the while they communicated with each other and Coordinators in the field via voice, Skype chat, SMS, and email. During the busier moments, their choreography of communications made my head (and camera) spin.
The team had seen enough of this room come Saturday when the IEBC (Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission) finally announced the election results. At 4 AM that Saturday morning, long before the official announcement, I was awoken by the sounds of celebration – horns blaring and crowds shouting and chanting. Word was out that Uhuru Kenyatta had won the Presidential election in the first round of voting. This came as a huge surprise. According to the IEBC, Kenyatta had received just slightly more than 50% of the votes, narrowly avoiding a run-off. Based on polling and what I had been hearing from friends and experts up to that point, I had been planning a final production trip in April to cover the next round of the Presidential contest between Kenyatta and Raila Odinga.
This screen shot from our hotel TV captures the confusion and lack of closure that crept into Saturday. Several hours later than scheduled, the IEBC presented their final results for the Presidential race followed by a short ceremony honoring and acknowledging Kenyatta’s first round victory. At the same time, Presidential contender Raila Odinga held a news conference, delivering a speech titled, “Democracy on the Line.” He was clearly not conceding. We were all surprised and concerned about what this would mean for the country and specifically for people living in Eastlands, Nairobi, Narok County, El Doret, Burnt Forest, Nakuru, Transmara and other communities across the country. And it is not just the Odinga campaign that has serious concerns. John Githongo and a group of Kenyan community organizations are also taking their case to the court and Githongo was quoted as saying, “In my personal opinion, it’s a failed election.” It was hard to make sense of this split-screen news coverage – Kenyatta and his campaign and party supporters gathering for his victory speech, Odinga drawing comparisons between this election and the flawed elections of 2007.
So we now wait one, two, three weeks as the Kenyan Supreme Court rules on Odinga’s list of concerns. I’ll be packing up for my return home tomorrow. Will I come back to Nairobi in April? WLike my friends here in Kenya, I’ll just have to wait and see.