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Amid Violence, Kenyans Connect on YouTube

By Steve Grove

Head of News and Politics

It's been almost a month since the results of Kenya's presidential election sparked protests and riots in the East African country. When sitting President Mwai Kibaki won over opposition leader Raila Odinga, claims of a rigged result sent hundreds of protesters into the street, sparking tribal warfare and governmental crackdowns on protesters. The violence has killed hundreds of Kenyans and displaced over 350,000 citizens. Today, Odinga called for rallies in 42 locations nationwide, leaving many bracing for more violence.

Just a few months before the election, Kenya's largest broadcaster, NTV Kenya, started a YouTube channel to broadcast news from around Kenya. Though Kenya's third-world economy affords less than 1% of its citizens broadband Internet access, NTV Kenya's YouTube presence has become a critical way for the Kenyan diaspora to connect with what's happening back home. The channel already has almost 3,000 subscribers and is one of the top 100 channels viewed in the last month on YouTube. The channel documents the death and violence, but it also broadcasts the efforts of the international community to rescue the nation from internal strife, as demonstrated by this playlist:

A conversation amongst YouTubers -- Kenyans and others -- has developed over the conflict there, and the National Democratic Institute (a global nonprofit that provides election assistance in Kenya and other fledgling democracies) has started a channel that documents the election efforts in Nairobi and beyond. This video of an election line in Starehe shows just how thirsty Kenyans were on December 27, 2007, to cast their votes:

While Kenya's future is uncertain, YouTube remains a window into the challenges the country faces – in other words, you don't need expensive satellite TV to catch the news from the region or footage of the chaos.