The director of EDC’s Sudan Radio Service, which broadcasts to that country from Nairobi, Groce had been on the scene during the election as part of a Sudanese voting observation team that included other journalists and government officials. With Sudan’s first national election scheduled for 2009, the team hoped to learn from Kenya’s experience. In February, Groce reflected on the election and its troubled aftermath.
“The polls opened at 6 a.m., and when we showed up at 5:30 there was already a line half a mile long. The polling stations weren’t problem-free, but we didn’t see anything to make us suspicious. The voting wasn’t manipulated—the counting was.
“Kenya is revered in this part of Africa as a stable and peaceful place where things work well. When the days passed and there were no [election] results, things started to feel fishy. Then came an announcement that President Kibaki had won. He was sworn in within an hour. The next day, the violence started.
“My house is a few blocks from opposition headquarters, and for a couple of days we saw police and protesters clashing violently on the road behind us. On my way back from work one night, I saw a large crowd of demonstrators in front of the market. The police arrived with water cannons and guns and fired into the air. Everyone started running, so I drove as fast as I could and managed to stay just ahead of the crowd and make it safely home.
“Some parts of Nairobi are more violent than others, particularly at night. We have some staff people who live in those parts of town, but fortunately no one has been killed. One of our staff members has family that died, though—they were burned in their home.
“I have to hand it to the staff here—they were brave and committed. We managed to get the news and programming out every day without interruption. Things have gotten better since Kofi Annan came. People are optimistic that a solution will be worked out, though there will need to be a long healing process. The election was the catalyst to violence, but there are deeper land and tribal issues to be resolved.”
Originally published on May 1, 2008