Exclusive Photos: Kenya on the Brink

An exclusive photo gallery and essay traces the post-election violence in Kenya

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An eager young democrat sharpens his voting credentials.

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News that a Kikuyu – the tribe to which Kibaki belongs – had been lynched by one of Raila’s Luo tribesmen brought hundreds of angry youths into the streets of Dagoretti.

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As we drove slowly through the crowd, our vehicle was hijacked for a joyride by rioters looking for a victim.

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On Sunday, scores of exhausted reporters gathered at the Kenya International Conference Center to hear what Electoral Commission chairman Samuel Kivuitu finally had to say.

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Rumours had flown all day that Mr. Kivuitu, smiling in the middle, would announce Kibaki’s victory. By now it was clear that this would produce a violent reaction, and journalists conjectured that his announcement would immediately be followed by a declaration of emergency rule.

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But Raila Odinga, closest to the camera, interrupted the press conference by producing an electoral official who declared he’d witnessed fraud on a grand scale. Thus discredited, Mr. Kivuitu retired to a private room to announce Kibaki’s victory in peace and quiet. The announcement was broadcast on the state TV station, KBC, which had already been widely condemned for its pro-Kibaki bias.

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By the time Kibaki was being sworn in at State House, fireballs were erupting over the slums as furious residents torched homes, businesses, gas stations, and anything else they could put a match to. Here in Kibera, some of them were having a conspicuously good time.

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“No Raila, no peace,” was the universal chant.

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At this point I was regretting my decision to gauge the mood of the people.

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Deeper into Kibera where the fires hadn’t yet reached, wary residents armed themselves and prepared for the worst.

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Chris Ojow, a colleague who grew up in Kibera, was my guide throughout the night. When gunshots started crackling in the direction we’d come from, he found us a safe route out of Kibera that ended at Whispers Pub.

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The following day, the extent of the damage became visible. Reports started pouring in that every city, town and village in the country had been torn apart by violence.

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Raila Odinga tried to hold a rally in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, at which he intended to declare himself president. But riot police sealed off not just the park, but the entire downtown core, frustrating the attempt.

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16 comment(s)

Paul Edwards in DCJanuary 02, 2008 21:38 EST

tremendously moving

Chris FlavelleJanuary 03, 2008 16:56 EST

Amazing. Well done.

Zaheer MeraliJanuary 03, 2008 20:28 EST

Arno - excellent work, both visual and written. Having grown up in Nairobi it's desperately sad to see all of this transpire in such a wonderful place. Keep up the good work getting the word out and stay safe.
Mpaka baadaye

Z

FifeJanuary 04, 2008 01:25 EST

Brother, Troubling times to be sure. Thank you for risking your own safety to show us what is happening there. Please help us understand why the people are burning down their own neighborhoods?? Is it due to tribal inclinations or more like a hunger strike?? Who are those wielding machetes hoping to attack?? Thank you again and may God keep you safe.

RyanJanuary 04, 2008 10:20 EST

I lived in that slum for a month this summer, good picture. Kibera truly is one of the most violent places I have seen the 1.5 million people aren't being allowed to leave, no food is going in, they are starving...

Rich GelderJanuary 04, 2008 10:24 EST

Is there not anywhere in Africa safe from such political corruption and violence?

KashmiraJanuary 05, 2008 04:27 EST

Hey Arno,
It really hurts me to see how the fairly peaceful and beautiful country has slid into violence to become a 'mini-Rwanda'. But then again, didn't everyone see this coming?

Congratulations on your brilliant writing and photography. I can see that you are not far from becoming a good photographer too.

Kashmira

Alexander EichenerJanuary 07, 2008 03:56 EST

Kashmira: damning with faint praise, ahh? ;-) The pics are excellent, certainly above the usual CNN junk that sets the standards in the USofA. For additional comparison, I suggest a look at the Kenyan photoblog of Joseph Karoki:

http://josephkaroki.wordpress.com/

Alexander

el Jefe JustoJanuary 07, 2008 11:01 EST

AK.

It is hard for me to imagine what Anarchy looks like in reality, yet your words and photos help piece together the destruction of what seemed to be one of Africa's more stable countries.
"Where there are mobs, there are tire fires." is my favourite quote. It helps to add humour to this desperate situation.
Why are these desperatly poor people looting, robbing and generally upset at this election gone wrong? I think we know, and its about time to stop greed and corruption for good.

Dan McRaeJanuary 09, 2008 20:37 EST

Arno,

Fantastic reporting. You put it simple and straight amidst a sheer nightmare. Big kudos to the photography here. I could not begin to imagine the tension. Where are the superheros of good for Africa?

Gab.January 10, 2008 09:26 EST

If leaders run the government for the sake of positions and not for taking care of their people or citizens and lead them to the better future, then I think they will be no hope for all the people at all.Leaders need to be honest and sincere with their citizens and give hope, freedom, and security for as human beings. I do not know why leaders do not use their common sense and wisdom given them by God to do good.
Misused your gifts will be huge punishments.My payers and thoughts will be with people of kenya. God be with all
Gabriel

AnonymousJanuary 11, 2008 02:51 EST

Brilliant incisive photography of our chaotic democracy, elly

AnonymousJanuary 11, 2008 08:50 EST

More info on the situation from bloggers:

http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/ii-the-word-of-kenyans/

Stephanie OlsenJanuary 18, 2008 11:11 EST

Arno-Amazing work old friend! Keep safe.

Dave TaylorFebruary 13, 2008 13:00 EST

I lived in Limuru, and worked in the Mathare valley several years ago. The Kikuyu and other tribes lived there peacefully. I was shocked at the level of hatred and violence I have witnessed in the last few months. Politicians must put aside their petty differences in favour of lasting peace, otherwise kenya will never be the same.

BMJ MuriithiMarch 01, 2008 06:15 EST

I loved your article in the Kenyan paper- Daily Nation- (about the high-profile personalities that visited Kenya following the crisis) published on March 1st 2008. It was factual, well written and highly humorous. You are a great writer. I am a Kenyan journalist living in the US and I must say..that article truly made my day. Keep it up. PS. Please drop me a line if you can spare some time. I would like to know more about you.

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