NAIROBI, 3 August 2010 (IRIN) –
In a nondescript room on the 14th floor of a Nairobi office block, the words “hate speech” appear on a computer screen next to the name of a prominent politician, with location, a telephone number and buttons marked “Not verified” and “Follow-up”.
Another message reads: “If you think peace is expensive, try violence!”
Yet another says: “Plz help us. A certain community is threatening other communities to vacate the area in case YES wins.”
Over the past three weeks, Kenyans have used their mobile phones to send more than 5,000 such messages to a dedicated number: 6397.
The free short message service is part of an initiative, the Uwiano Platform for Peace, set up with help from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure the 4 August referendum on a new constitution is not marred by the kind of violence that claimed more than 1,000 lives and saw over half a million people take flight after a presidential election in 2007.