Faith Based Media in Peace Building and Reconciliation in Kenya
Naomi L. Shitemi, Mosol Kandagor, Mwanakombo Noordin, Reuben Kigame
Review of Journalism and Mass Communication, 1(1), pp. 14-24.
The interventions, following the infamous 2007/8 post-election violence in Kenya, brought to fore initiatives of dialogue and peace building and reconciliation. Individuals, organizations and institutions rose to the occasion in a variety of ways, each one of them seeking to make a contribution to the restoration of Kenya. Strategies that worked around dialogue, healing, reconciliation and rehabilitation were immense. This paper focused on the role of the media, particularly faith based, in addressing the plight that faced Kenya during and after the 2007/8 post-election violence period. Their contact and communication with the community through various programs have been highlighted and dialogued in the study. Of significance are the endeavors to challenge the people, individually and collectively in a manner that sought to prick their conscience thus begging of them to be mindful of each others’ welfare and each others’ keepers. A variety of media programs that ran during the post-election violence period were cited and analyzed. It came out clearly that faith based media played a pivotal role in peace building and reconciliation during and after the 2007/8 post-election violence in Kenya.

Keywords: Faith based media, Peace Building, Reconciliation

1.0 Introduction

This paper dialogues the role of faith based media in the curbing the violence occasioned by the 2007/8 presidential elections in Kenya. The Paper also recognizes that the interventions, following the infamous post-election violence, brought to fore forms of initiatives and dialogue on peace building in magnitudes and forms yet un-witnessed in Kenya.

Individuals, organizations and institutions rose to the occasion in a variety of ways, each seeking to make a contribution to the restoration of Kenya through peace and reconciliation initiatives. Kenya’s media, particularly the faith based radio stations played critical roles before and after the general elections. The study therefore addressed matters including the extent to which the faith based media stations responded to the violence by enlisting civil society interactions and dialogue. The affinity between the radio stations and the Kenyan community, considering the fact that Kenya is more than 80% religious, is particularly marked in the thesis of the study, since many people tune into these radio stations following the establishment of clientele catchments that faithfully tune into them. Through interactive methodology, the radio stations offered the community avenues of expression thus ensuring information sharing, dissemination and acquisition. A variety of media strategies and programs that ran during and after the violence period are cited and analyzed.

Maiese (2003) considers peace building to be a process that facilitates the establishment of durable harmony by preventing the recurrence of violence. It addresses root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation and institution building, while targeting socio-political and economic transformation. In the framework, physical, social, and structural initiatives are seen to be integral to post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. Long-term peace building techniques are therefore designed to address the underlying substantive issues that bring about conflicts. Four significant dimensions of peace building pillars emerge from this framework as outlined below.

1.1 Structural Dimension Pillar

This pillar addresses the structural dimension of peace building. It focuses on the social, political and economic structures and conditions that are likely to catalyze violent conflicts. The argument is supported by Waki (2008) and Kriegler (2008). The Waki and Kriegler reports document in detail the causes of the 2007/8 post-election violence. Some of these run far back in time to capture aspects such as lack of employment, land grievances, political marginalization, lack of economic equity and ethnicity. If such socio-economic and political issues are not addressed, then peace is at stake. Socio-economic and infrastructural developments are therefore integral to the creation of a peaceful and harmonious society.

1.2 Relational Dimension Pillar

According to this pillar, peace building and reconciliation are crucial to reduction of effects of conflictrelated- hostility through the repair and transformation of damaged relationships (Maiese, 2003, Doyle and Sambanis, 2006). In other words in any given community is expected that each member should relate harmoniously with the other. The pillar is therefore based on the following aspects:

a. Reconciliation is usually achieved through dialogue and other communication strategies.

b. Forgiveness, being a product of reconciliation and communication should be yearned for all costs.

c. Trust and confidence building leads to security, a necessary environment for harmonious society.

The basic principle in this pillar is that people need to realize their mistakes, and change their perceptions of their alleged enemies (Laderach, 1997). This move develops empathy, remorsefulness, regrets and apologies. In this process, dialogue is the key instrument. Faith based radio stations played crucial roles at this level in calming the masses, giving assurance, soliciting guidance and counseling communications, educating the parties through peace-education project thus seeking to allay grief, fear, and mistrust while enhancing a sense of security.

The concerned parties therefore form visions of a commonly shared future to which they all have a role and responsibility of building. For reconciliation to thrive in any society there is need to target both victim and offender in dialogue by identifying, addressing and actioning their needs and obligations.

1.3 The Personal Dimension Pillar

According to Maiese (2003) and Luc (2001) the personal dimension pillar in relation to peace building is centered on desired changes at the individual level. If individuals are not able to undergo a process of healing, there will be broader social, political, and economic repercussions. Reconstruction and peace building efforts therefore need to prioritize mental health issues for integration in efforts targeting peace plans and rehabilitation. Dialogue at community level, prayer sessions for healing, rituals and cleansing ceremonies variously help in elevating the individual and communal pain and suffering. It is therefore imperative to note that, one-on-one counseling sessions are crucial to rebuilding trust in others.

1.4 Peace Building Agency Pillar

Maiese (2003), Henning (2002) and Boutros (1995) argue that peace building measures should integrate other agencies efforts, for example, civil society, institutions, media and religious initiatives. Faith based media, amongst other players, are significant actors in peace building and reconstruction. These constitute part of society’s religious network that plays important roles in establishing social and moral norms; and by extension spiritual nourishment. Amongst the resources for sustaining peace is an appreciation and nurturing of the grassroots and their relative cultures. For example, in Kenya, the national language, Kiswahili and religion bring people together in manners that transcend ethnic, social, political and economic divides. Peace building strategies therefore need to address cultural dimensions of conflict while identifying mechanisms for resolution as to be found within given cultural settings. With a focus on the faith based media, the paper therefore dialogued the role of faith based media in an effort to sensitize the community at large to embrace peace building and reconciliation. Waki (2008) reported that media plays a crucial role in peace building and reconciliation initiatives in Kenya.

1.5 Waki Commission: Role of the Media in Post election Violence

The Waki Commission (2008) emerged with observations and recommendations on the role of the media in the post-election violence following the contested results of the presidential elections. General observations and specific testimonies were presented in relation to a variety of issues including the role of the media. For example, the following observation is made of one media house concerning its role in the violence as captured in the popular version of this Commission’s report, Waki Mtaani1.

“From the statements given by the public, vernacular stations were most responsible for contributing to a climate of hate, negative ethnicity and incitement to violence. Radio stations mentioned included KASS FM in the rift valley, Kameme FM, Inooro FM and Coro FM, Bahasha FM in Nakuru and Nam Lolwe FM”.

In the same report, the following issues were raised:

i. The reason for unprofessionalism of the media is the absence of a new regulatory and legislative frame work following reforms in the media sector after the KANU era. The Media is believed to have taken advantage and began to operate freely and sometimes recklessly and irresponsibly.

ii. The Media sometimes used individuals who were not trained and journalists who were partisan and sometimes politically biased. This resulted in media taking sides in the run up to 2007 general election.

iii. The Ministry of Information and Communication had received letters and internal memos voicing concern about the KASS FM breakfast show “Lee Nee Emeet” on 19 February 2007and another on 29 November 2007, complaining about various aspects of Kiss FM, Classic FM, and Easy FM, including their promotion of “ethnic tension”. The complaints were forwarded to the media council.

iv. The live broadcast of vote said that live broadcast of the tallying of the 2007 election results at the KICC and the visible acrimony of political leaders inflamed tensions, bringing “the country to the brink”.

v. After the violence broke out the Ministry of Internal Security communicated with the Ministry of Information and Communication about invoking Sec 88 of the Communications Act leading to the live coverage ban.

vi. The ban on live broadcasts was done in good faith with overriding national interest.

The Kenya Editors Guild’s Statements as presented to the Waki Commission states that:

i. While the media had been “accused of playing part in fanning the post-election violence” the accusations were not specific and but came from various sides of the political spectrum which were aggrieved because they felt they were not supported by the media.

ii. It might have been better if the media had aired more rather than fewer inflammatory statements by politicians so that they would have been exposed to the public.

iii. The media played a very critical role in lessening tension.

iv. Cutting off live broadcasts from the KICC concerning the results of the elections contributed much more to raising tension than continuing those broadcasts because then people started wondering what was happening.

v. They disagreed with government statement concerning the alleged partisanship of the media, claiming that the media was very diverse, and that there was nothing wrong in taking sides or positions as long as this was made clear to the public.

The Waki report further gives ‘Hard evidence’ on Media broadcasts and their involvement in the postelection violence. It observed that:

i. The Commission tried to obtain tapes from some FM radio stations from a variety of sources beginning with the Ministry of Information and Communications.

ii. The Commission did receive some selected tapes from the Ministry, but only starting from 18 February 2008.

iii. Requests for tapes and transcripts from FM vernacular Stations by Strategic Relations and Research Limited, a firm contracted by the UNDP to monitor the media during the 2007 election, the CCK2, and the KNCHR3 were unsuccessful.

iv. One transcript was received by the Commission from the Ministry of Information and Communication about KASS FM’s broadcast on 18 February 2008. The transcript captured these statements - You may answer [a] question whose answer will in future spell doom for you” - “Be very careful and refer the investigators to political leaders, chiefs or church leaders to answer the questions.”- “You may be asked to explain how a neighbor of yours left his farm or property and then you answer in a manner that will later place you in an awkward position. I am not saying you conceal the truth, but tell the truth if you have been appointed to undertake that particular duty because not everybody should talk”

v. A transcript received from Bahasha FM in Nakuru, recorded at 8 a.m. on 30 January 2008 said “Kikuyu are like mongoose which is ready to eat chickens. All other tribes, i.e. Luo, Kisii, Luhyas are all animals in the forest. They cannot be able to lead this country like Kikuyus”.

vi. Another transcript from Nam Lolwe Station in Kisumu broadcast the following from an anonymous caller “Our people are dying in Naivasha and Nakuru and some other tribes are living with us. They should be flashed out those who don’t belong to this town.”

Kutol, K., Kandagor, M. & Simotwo, P. (2009) argue that media plays key role in conflict management in any given society. During the 2007/8 post-election violence, Kenya’s media contributed to larger extent on the violence actions witnessed in various parts of the country, particularly in Rift Valley and Nyanza regions. The article therefore interrogates the proactive role of the faith based media in the pursuit of peace and reconciliation following the post-election violence in Kenya. Further, it articulates the role of select faith based media in enhancing reconciliation and healing among the communities within designated catchment areas.

2.0 Faith Based Media in Peace Building and Reconciliation

As outlined earlier in this paper, media played crucial in the realization of peace and reconciliation during and after the 2007/8 post-election violence in Kenya. Faith based media therefore rose to the occasion as a key institution that contributed immensely towards the realization of peace and reconciliation in Kenya.

The following faith based radio stations were deliberately sampled and selected from across the country for the purpose of this study; they included: Imani Radio; SAYARE4 FM particularly in Kitale and Eldoret towns; Biblia Husema in Eldoret; Fish FM in Western and North Rift regions and Hope FM based in Nairobi, all of which are Christian based radio stations and Radio Salama and Radio Rahma, which are Islam based stations. Even before the onset of the infamous 2007 elections that resulted in violence and conflict amongst communities in Kenya, most faith based radio stations such as Fish FM and Radio Salama engaged with listeners in the pre-election process while sensitizing voters on objective choices of leaders, matters of civil rights and the constitution.

2.1 Dialogue as Peace Building and Reconciliation Strategy

It is imperative to note that all the stations selected for the study, organized for call-in programs. This is a normal phenomenon that integrates audience participation during routine broadcasts. The method was significantly applied during the post-election pacification of the people.

Call in and messaging activities were undertaken within the process of running a variety of programs. Direct telephone call-ins and SMS5 texts were sent into the stations in response to the theme under discussion. Talk shows to which significant personalities were invited and audiences granted opportunity to call in and either asked questions or make contribution to the dialogue were also frequently held. Such topical and thematic dialogue was also facilitated through SMS texts. Music that was appropriate to the theme under discussion and generally carrying messages of peace, reconciliation, harmony and co-existence, laced with spiritual messages was also used as interlude to the discussions. Secular but patriotic music was also used a great deal. The dialogue was moderated by the announcer on duty. There were ethnic biases, overt and/or implied in the manner in which people contributed to the discussions on radio.

Clergymen, politicians, counselors, activists and other opinion leaders made up discussion panels and handled relevant issues thematically. Announcers also integrated dialogue and debate in significant programs while also allowing call-in sessions and SMS texts. Most programs set out to sensitize the audience on matters of peace, reconciliation and good neighborliness. It is worth mentioning that most messages focused on peace and sought to promote understanding among the people. Clear and to the point SMS were requested from the listeners. This was to ensure economy on time and clarity of messages; while minimizing antagonism and misunderstanding. Most SMS received encouraged listeners to love and co-exist harmoniously with their neighbors.

During the violence and the immediate post-election violence period, some listeners sent in very hostile and sentimental call-ins and SMS messages, in which they either wished people, would continue fighting or castigated parties to which they were opposed. This to some extent further fuelled the conflict. However the presenters restricted such SMS by not reading them and also cut off speeches in which the callers were articulating violence. They emphasized preferences of callers that promoted peace and reconciliation.

2.2 Fish FM: Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Regions

The significance of the launch of Fish FM in 2006 was tested during the period leading to the 2007 presidential elections and during the subsequent post-election violence in Kenya. While several community stations were partisan and even inciting, Fish FM lived up to its impartial, interdenominational position by according both sides of the political divide equal air time to explain policies and intentions to their audience of different communities in the Rift Valley, Western Province and parts of Nyanza Province.

“In the period leading to the elections,” said Mr. Reuben Kigame, Fish FM Founder and Managing Director, “we always ensured that we would not hold any election-related discussion without inviting representatives from both the PNU6 and ODM7. …

Sometimes we would arrange it in such a way that we had PNU on Monday and then ensure that we hadn ODM on Tuesday.” Kigame ensured that the newsroom at Fish FM followed this same direction. He ensured that every news item on ODM was followed by another on PNU.

If one party gave a position on a matter, his newsroom ensured that they aired a view or position from the other side. This gave Fish FM both admiration and hatred. Occasionally listeners called in and openly complained that Fish FM was not being fair through their middle ground in dealing with the 2007/8 post-election violence.

Two programs on Fish FM particularly provided a forum for the audience to vent and bond. Some of the programs were; Fish Breakfast which run from 6:30AM to 9:00 A.M. and the Open Forum which was aired from 9:00AM to 11:00 P.M. In the former, utterances, comments, ideas and conduct of the players in the pre-election events were discussed from a Biblical perspective with the aim of harnessing responsibility during the voting exercise and general education of the community. In the Open Forum, besides invited guests to share their positions, listeners were also invited to call in and share their sentiments on issues ranging from the conduct of the ECK8, conduct of politicians to outright discussion of the manifestos of different parties and how they hoped to implement them. The Breakfast show laid more emphasis on comments through text messages.

Due to the neutral position of Fish FM held before the elections, the station became the greatest pillar for hope, peace and reconciliation in the region. “We were able to bring the two sides of the political divide together especially in the IDP9 camps when distributing foodstuffs and other amenities collected during on air appeals, primarily because we were respected for our Christian position and for being a friend of all,” Said Kigame.

During the tension caused by a delay in announcing the presidential results, Fish FM had different clergies praying on air and urging people to be calm. To a greater extent, this helped to slow down the animosity that could have erupted much earlier than it did. Several community leaders and elders were also called upon to address the audience on the need to patiently wait and accept the outcome of the said results. Presenter after presenter kept reminding the audience that the elections come and go, but the people and the country will always be there, hence the need to approach the season responsibly. In addition, Fish FM introduced “Table Talk”, a five minutes Breakfast Show segment during the height of the violence. This was meant to give the audience an opportunity to pour out their feelings of grief, loss, injury and pain. Even during the ban of live broadcasting, victims of the violence were interviewed at the camps and the interviews edited to help the listeners cope with the traumatic recordings. When aired, these interviews catalyzed others to speak.

Soon, text messages began to come in urging people to forgive, return stolen property, and receive neighbors that had been sent away and to support those who were hurting. Fish FM also organized what they called “Live Together Concerts” in Eldoret town and at the IDP camp situated at the Eldoret Show Ground. They donated learning materials to the makeshift school, food and clothing to the affected. In addition, the station worked closely with Kenya Red Cross Society of Kenya together with the Sacred Heart Cathedral to make continuous appeals for the said amenities. The management also contacted trauma counselors from Nairobi to come over and spend time with the IDPs. Music was also used during the post-election violence period to encourage hope, unity, peace, co-existence and patriotism. The songs included “Msigombane” (Don’t quarrel) by Ephraim Mwansansu, “You’re My Brother

You’re My Sister” by Russ Tuff, “Don’t Give Up” by Mthunzi Namba, “Lean on Me” by Kirk Franklin and “Daima Mkenya” (Forever a Kenyan) by Eric Wainaina. One line from Wainaina’s song read, “Chuki na ukabila hatutaki hata kamwe…” (we do not desire to see hatred and tribalism at all…). Commendably, Fish FM played a leading role in ensuring peace and reconciliation among several stations analyzed.

2.3 Imani, SAYARE and Biblia Husema Radio Stations

All the stations organized for call in programs. In Imani (Based in Kitale town) and SAYARE (Eldoret), clergies, politicians and teachers were invited to contribute their views on post-election violence. During the programs, they dwelled on sensitizing Kenyans on peace and reconciliation matters, listeners would be allowed to make their contribution from time to time during the program. Most of them did not have specific programs; they organized for such whenever a need arose. In SAYARE (Kitale station), they had a specific program-Kalya, a Kalenjin word which means peace.

In Biblia Husema (Eldoret), there was a program Ushauri kwa Jamii (Counsel to the community), a program which was moderated by Lugusa. Dr. Mosol Kandagor10 and Dr. Edward Bantu11 participated in the program that was aired every Wednesday at 9.30PM between Jan-June 2008. The theme of the program was peace and reconciliation. The presenters would also provoke people to respond to the discussions or teachings. Most presenters referred to the Bible, citing examples both from old and new testaments. Jesus example as a peace maker dominated the discussions. Songs and poems were also used as instrument of promoting peace and reconciliation.

The stations mobilized listeners; individuals, humanitarian organizations and churches to assist those affected by post-election violence by donating whatever they had. In so doing, the affected would feel loved. In one way or the other these efforts promoted peace. In addition, the stations encourage people to visit, chat and even prayed with those affected.

Moreover, the stations selected appropriate Christian music in order to emphasize and to supplement the Christian teaching and lend a Christian dimension to the peace and reconciliation message at hand. The songs were either in English, Kiswahili and/or the mother tongues. They also ran sponsored programs that allowed specific cohorts of society opportunity to communicate with the community on matters of peace, reconciliation and empowerment that would allow people to make the right choices for social cohesion.

2.4 Radio Salama FM

Radio Salama FM, located in the coast Province of Kenya is an Islamic Radio Broadcasting station that targets the dissemination of Islamic news, current affairs and events. During the post-election violence, it not only focused on Islamic teaching but also addressed matters of peace and reconciliation in the coastal region. The following programs were run on this radio station.

 Kongamano (Conference) program: The Station engaged with Kenyans of all faiths to advocate for peace, patience and understanding after the crisis, through call-in programs.

 On Kongamano, a Swahili forum, politicians both elected and those who were not actively involved in politics were engaged to talk to listeners and convince them to abstain from violence, hate-talk and vengeance. For example, they hosted the chief Kadhi of Kenya Sheikh Hamad Kassim in February 2008 to debate with callers on matters of peace building and reconciliation.

The program was on air eight times during the week due to public demands. Many callers received messages of peace from the Quran and teachings of the Prophet during the show, an initiative that lessened doubt and hatred amongst the people.

Due to the sensitive nature of issues after the presidential election crisis, the station invited guests to the talk shows and ensured only non-partisan and “neutral” topics were discussed. None of the guests were allowed to talk politics or party issues. Guests included Kenya Red Cross officials, advocates of the high court, Non-Governmental Organizations and Imams from Mombasa Mosques.

 Kauli yako (Your Say) Program: On this program, listeners aired their views and sent in text messages on peace. This was a purely listeners program offering counseling services to callers on emotive issues after the crisis.

 Sauti ya Pwani (Voice from the Coast) Program: This program catered for the IDP’s and those who were directly affected by the crisis. Through this program, the radio station organized for relief aid food and shelter in order to alleviate the suffering of the displaced. The plight of the IDP’s was highlighted and help sought in manners that hastened healing and recovery.

2.5 Radio Rahma FM

Radio Rahma FM, an Islamic station based in Mombasa, being a news and talk radio station, engaged listeners in current affairs, civil rights and Islamic doctrine. It seeks to disseminate Islamic Religious messages through Quranic recitations, to promote equality, liberty and fraternity. It aims at promotion of fundamental unity of all revealed religions in origin based on knowledge and action of the Supreme Being and His Laws, and to obey them in order to attain the goals on the path of progress. With specific reference to the Quranic verses, the station educated people on peace and forgiveness; how to overcome grief, fear and mistrust thus enhancing a system of security. Specific objective include: Leading youth into positive action by discouraging idleness, drugs and destructive behavior; Organizing youth camps and football tournaments in various city estates; and visiting disadvantaged villages and inspiring them through motivational talks.

The Station encouraged prayer sessions in collaboration with mosques in Mombasa every Friday up to June 2008. The main aim was to encourage National Healing and to help alleviate pain and suffering from the affected people. It continues to play an important role in establishing social and moral norms. The Islamic culture at the Coast forms the basis of reference with teaching from the life of Prophet Mohammed during the battles of Badr and Uhud in order to advocate and to sustain peace. The Islamic teachings used the call-in program tailored to bring people together regardless of their ethnic affiliations. The station ran programs such as:

 Al-Jamaah (The community) which engaged listeners in advocating for peace through the refrain of “Love thy neighbor.” Listeners were encouraged to be tolerant of each other.

 “Pwani for peace”. This was the most popular Program that aired every 20 minutes during the months of January to June 2008 when the crisis was at its peak. Callers sent in text messages of peace in order to promote understanding.

Through this program, station organized functions at the Bamburi Public Beaches every Saturday and Sunday in order to engage the youth in football tournaments so that they would not be used to cause mayhem. The station also hosted the Imams, preachers, pastors from Mombasa, Lamu and Nairobi to talk about an end to violence and promotion of peace. Teachings from the Quran and the Life of the Prophet were the main references.

 The crew of Radio Rahma led by the station manager Sheikh Shafi Yahya distributed food to IDP camps at the Dock station, Police station camps, Changamwe IDP camp and Likoni IDP camp that was home to most of the displaced people. The station also mobilized for humanitarian assistance from Muslim well-wishers in Kenya and abroad to donate construction materials like cement and iron sheets for the construction of new homes for those whose houses had been burnt.

3.0 Conclusion

All the strategies and initiatives targeting peace, healing and reconciliation as highlighted in this article present a semiotic and pragmatic reading. They all build upon communication by use of dialogue, capacity building, empowerment and negotiation in manners that call for careful and purposive choice of language and other means of communication. The specific dialogue and negotiation programs as illustrated herein indicate the need for deliberate address of communication strategies that entrench love, good neighborliness, accommodation of each other regardless of origin and ethnicity and a general mindfulness of each other. The paper also interrogated socio-economic and socio-political parameters and variables which heavily impacted the communities’ well-being, hence lack of peace in the society.

The radio station studied in the paper got information from their reporters, police, local leaders, politicians, clergies and individual citizens while also presenting what was aired on other major stations. They therefore applied normal journalistic modes of information gathering while shaping it to fit into their individual modes for public consumption. The information would then be aired through news broadcasts, thematic and topical programs, songs, and special programs. Moreover, the stations focused on peace and reconciliation information. In the pre-recorded programs, the station managements sieved the information received and prepared them for broadcast. They also adopted modes of presentation and moderation of the discussions in a manner that did not fuel animosity or aggravate the already tense and hostile situations.

The four pillars of peace building outlined in the study appear crucial and significant in any exercise of peace restoration, negotiation, healing and reconciliation. The Structural Dimension Pillar; Relational Dimension; Personal Dimension; and Peace Building Agency pillars show the compound and complex nature of peace building and negotiation.

As discussed, it therefore emerges that the faith based media responded to all the pillars by taking care of the bodily, spiritual, material and verbal hence an attempt at a holistic approach to intervention. As mentioned therefore, a semiotic and pragmatic reading of the initiatives becomes inevitable.


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