MSM on Africa – Round 1: Evolution of a Story

Presidential and parliamentary elections took place in Kenya on December 27th, 2007. On December 30th, after reports of an anticipated opposition victory, incumbent Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election by 230,000 votes (Kenya’s electorate comprises approximately 14 million voters) and immediately sworn in. Amid reports that the election results were rigged, supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga took to the streets in protest. Things got ugly pretty fast, hitting their high point in the burning deaths of 30+ women, children, and elderly in a church in Eldoret. The fact that Kibaki is a member of the plurality ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and Odinga a Luo, lends a (ripe for stereotyping) tribal flavor to the violence.

So let’s see how things are going with the coverage of post-election violence in Kenya. Our survey will be headline based, because it’s a weekday and our day jobs don’t really allow for in-depth textual analysis.

The headlines on December 30th and 31st were occupied mainly with keeping track of an escalating body count.

Disputed vote plunges Kenya into bloodshed” [New York Times]

Scores dead in Kenya poll clashes” [BBC]

More than 120 dead in Kenya election violence” [CNN]

By the new year, the focus began to shift to the international response.

Call for action as Kenya death toll tops 300” [Financial Times]

US in diplomatic push to end Kenya violence” [VOA]

African Union boss headed to Kenya for crisis talks” [Reuters, via New York Times]

And of course, to the inevitable comparisons to Rwanda, because of, um, Africa, and… tribes?

Chaos in Kenya: Tribal massacres echo Rwandan genocide” [Spiegel]

Shades of Rwanda skin-deep, but could push Kenya deal” [Reuters]

Ethnic violence: Why Kenya is not another Rwanda” [Christian Science Monitor]

Today’s headlines take a slightly different tack.

Tourists stranded in Kenya mayhem” [The Herald Sun (Australia)]

Tourism suffers in Kenya’s post-election violence” [Reuters]

Kenya holidays canceled as violence spreads” [Telegraph]

All in all, not too bad. Although we reserve the right to retract that when hyper-sensationalized reports of unprecedented levels of sexual violence start cropping up. What do we expect next? It’s a toss up between coverage of those displaced by the violence, several thousand of whom have crossed the border into Uganda, and analysis of the economic impact on the rest of the region. The violence has already disrupted fuel supply lines to Uganda, the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi.

Amanda and Kate

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