ALA Graduate (class of 2010), Sophie Anunda, launched the ‘I AM KENYAN’ project in Nairobi. The ‘I AM KENYAN’ project is a global initiative that aims to promote peace and patriotism in Kenya for the upcoming general elections, primarily through photography.
The official launch was an ‘I am Kenyan’ day held in Nairobi, which constituted of a public city march, a reading of the ‘I am Kenyan’ pledge, and a free family friendly concert. Over 1,000 people attended the events of the day in support of Sophie’s ‘I AM KENYAN’ initiative.
During the last Kenyan presidential elections in 2007, the results sparked tribal clashes. The severity of the Kenyan 2007 post-election violence intensified and there were over 1500 deaths and over 600,000 internally displaced persons.
In Kenya, tribal tension can be traced through history where inter-ethnic struggles have stemmed largely from the ethnicization of politics. To this date, the ethnicization of politics is still being used as a campaigning strategy by a vast majority of Kenyan politicians. As the country approaches the 2013 election year, there is growing concern that this campaign strategy will lead to yet another post-election violence. The ‘I AM KENYAN’ project seeks to mitigate this.
The purpose of Sophie’s ‘I AM KENYAN’ project is to remind Kenyans that before they identify themselves by their ethnic groups, they need to identify themselves and each other nationally as Kenyan. This project is a reconciliation campaign that uses photography as a platform to advocate for peace and political stability during the upcoming Kenyan elections.
Sophie’s project started as an idea that she had when she was in her last year at Africal Leadership Academy (ALA). She started the ‘I AM KENYAN’ project by simply creating a Facebook page and sharing this page with her friends. In a short amount of time, her ‘I AM KENYAN’ Facebook page went viral. The I AM KENYAN project has attracted over 1,500,000 views on its Facebook page. As awareness of this project continues to grow, different media organizations have reached out to Sophie to learn more about her initiative.
Since the ‘I AM KENYAN’ project started, over 2,000 people have signed peace and patriotism pledges. These pledges serve as a promise to uphold peace and avoid hate speech in the run up to the 2013 elections. Over 8,000 people from around the world have sent in their pictures in support of this initiative.
Organizations have provided sponsorships in various forms such as free T-shirts and banners, and free print and broadcast advertising. USAID has also made a generous donation to support Sophie’s initiative. Various government departments and corporates in Nairobi have reached out to support this initiative. For instance, the Office of the President of Kenya reached out to support and get involved in the launch of the ‘I AM KENYAN’ project.
The I AM KENYAN project has also gained interest from various celebrities and public figures in Kenya who have shown their support by providing their picture, signing the I AM KENYAN pledge, and/or performing at the official launch of this initiative.
The next step after the launch of the ‘I AM KENYAN’ project is to publically plaster the pictures in urban and rural areas, and in Internally Displaced Person’s camps across the country. Sophie and her team, which consists of other ALA students, also plan to present the thousands of signed pledges they have received to parliament in a bid to show the Kenyan leaders that Kenyans are ready to stand up for peace and ready to hold their leaders accountable.
Even though Sophie attends University in the United States, she still wants the momentum of this initiative to continue to grow even when she is not based in Kenya. Many Kenyans around the country have volunteered to help get more signatures for the ‘I am Kenyan’ pledge and people from all over the world are still sending in their pictures in support of this project. The last phase of this project, which will help to maintain and grow this initiative, is to launch school clubs and youth forums that will continue to spread the ‘I AM KENYAN’s message of peace and patriotism.
Sophie’s project and global initiative is one of the many examples of how ALA students and Alumni continue to promote the Academy’s mission of transforming Africa.
To learn more about this project and to sign the peace pledge, visit http://www.iamkenyan.or.ke/