Kenyan DJs go six days without food to promote peaceful elections
(CNN) — Three radio DJs in Kenya are going six days without food while broadcasting non-stop to promote peaceful voting in a country that was nearly torn apart after its last election five years ago.
Ghetto Radio presenters Mbusii, Solloo and Essie have been locked inside a “glass house” in central Nairobi since Wednesday, as part of the station’s annual Serious Request Kenya event.
This year’s theme is “Vote4Peace Vote4Kenya,” ahead of the East African country’s elections on March 4 2013. The vote will be the first since ethnic violence engulfed the country after disputed elections in December 2007, leaving more than 1,000 people dead and 350,000 displaced, according to the Kenya Red Cross.
Three days into the challenge, DJ Solloo is in good spirits — despite the lack of food.
“I’m a bit hungry,” he laughingly admits, “but we have to do this — it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Solloo, whose real name is Solomon Njoroge, says Kenya cannot afford a return to post-election violence. Last time around, he says, he was a victim of the bloody unrest that swept his town of Eldoret, one of the fighting hotspots in Kenya’s Rift Valley province.
Solloo says that back then he had to spend more than two weeks with limited food supplies while camping at a police station for safety.
“This country cannot afford to go back to that time,” says Solloo from the glass house, a few moments before going on air. “I decided to come here because we have to push for this message to be a part of every Kenyan. It has to be every Kenyan’s initiative to know that peace is more than just the absence of war.”
Opinion: What Ghana can teach the rest of Africa about democracy
The radio presenters’ food strike kicked off on December 19 and will run until December 24. So far, Solloo says, thousands of young people have gathered outside the glass house to show their support and also take part in a host of election-related activities, including issuing of ID cards, a voter-registration program and democracy workshops.
“The response has just been amazing,” says the DJ, who is relying on water and juices to get through the six-day period. “Everyone’s proactive saying Kenya needs peace. We have to work for Kenya and work for peace.”
Some of the country’s best-known musicians have also joined the cause by performing live outside the glass house, adding their voice to a growing chorus of Kenyans calling for a peaceful election.
Kenya has had a coalition government following the disputed 2007 elections. In that vote, both Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent, and challenger Raila Odinga claimed to have won. The post-election chaos escalated into ethnic violence with members of the president’s tribe, the Kikuyu, fighting members of Odinga’s Luo tribe and other groups.
The two later entered into a power-sharing agreement, with Odinga named prime minister and Kibaki named president.
Despite some pre-election tensions between politicians in the country, Solloo is hopeful that Kenya’s young population will show the nation’s leaders that bloodshed should be avoided at all costs.
“I just want everyone to understand that we need peace,” he says. “We cannot afford another post-election violence.”