Circa 2007 during Kenya’s General elections.
27th December: Kenyans go to vote
28th December: Counting begins with the opposition leader showing a solid lead
29th December: Opposition party declares victory as tallying continues
With the opposition forerunner’s lead diminishing, he states that election fraud has taken place and asks for the president to concede defeat
The Electoral Commission of Kenya swears in the incumbent for a second term late in the evening of the same day
Upon swearing in the incumbent, It took all of about 15 minutes on Sunday, after Kenya’s president was declared the winner of a deeply controversial election, for the country to explode into ethnically based violence.
From 31st December: Pandemonium
Following the disputed results, violence erupted that lasted approximately 59 days. This resulted in 1,400 deaths, at least 600,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), about 2,000 refugees, significant but unknown numbers of sexual violence victims, and the destruction of 117,216 private properties and 491 government-owned properties including offices, vehicles, health centres, and schools. With government censorship at play, Kenyans were in the dark on what was happening on the ground and how to say safe.
Newton's third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Something had to give. People came together. Organisations came together.
The international community stood united. They did not endorse the presidential election results and put intense pressure on Kenya’s political leaders to solve the crisis. They were doing their part at the political level.
On the ground, an ad hoc band of citizens and friends of citizens stood united. There was a government ban on live media and a wave of self-censorship within mainstream media, which created an information vacuum. This founding team of bloggers and technologists came together in January to build a website where people could anonymously report incidents of violence online or via mobile phone text messages (SMS). This information was mapped so that people could visualise what was going on. Here’s a video that explains this phenomenon, crowdsourcing and its significance.
This was an open-sourced mash-up platform combining Google Maps with publicly reported (text-based) incidents of election violence. They were not being paid. From server space, initial data gathering, code writing, etc., everything needed was done and donated by volunteers. They acted out of the deep conviction they felt to help Kenyans through surfacing information.
Over 40,000 reports were submitted, verified, and triaged. An analysis by Harvard's Kennedy School of Government found that the data collected by Ushahidi was superior to that reported by the mainstream media in Kenya in 2008. The service was also more effective for reporting non-fatal violence and information coming in from rural areas.
Thus Ushahidi (a Swahili word for testimony) was born. Since then, we carry our commitment to amplify voices, empower communities, and foster change, with the goal of a world in which communities are thriving and just. In 13 years of our existence, our platform has been used more than 200,000 times in over 160 countries for:
Reinforcing COVID-19 response and recovery
Relief efforts following earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal
Supporting fair elections in the U.S., Kenya, and Nigeria
Monitoring and reporting corruption in Indonesia
Documenting police brutality in Portland during Black Lives Matter protests
Helping women address sexual violence in Egypt
The above magnitude, only possible through the determination and action of our deployers.
The genesis of Ushahidi is the genesis of deployments. Concerned residents, organisations, or people caring about the same concern voluntarily combine their strengths and bring about social change, selflessly putting others before themselves. As Ushahidi, we believe in our deployers. That is why we’re running our Annual Donation Campaign to raise funds to directly support them to scale their input, outcomes and ultimately their impact.
Now that you know about Ushahidi’s roots, you know about our deployers’ too. If you believe in us, believe in them too. Please read about the deployers we’ve demonstrated on our blog, and stay with us as we showcase others over the next three weeks.
And while you’re here, donate 😀