‘Peace wanted alive’ – Kenyan graffiti artist’s post-election message

When Solomon Muyundo went out to paint messages of peace during the violence that followed an election in Kenya – he took an immeasurable risk as the sound of gunfire rent the air and police helicopters flew overhead.

“There are some gunshots, we have people who are protesting against the ruling and we as Kenyans, the Kenyan citizens, our role was to vote and we did that (sound of gunshots), so if there are any disputes, or any differences, someone should take the matters to the courts. We have legal bodies that can handle these,” he said.

Protests broke out after Kenya’s election board announced that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta had won by 1.4 million votes.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga disputes the figure and has taken his case to the Supreme Court.

At least 28 people were killed in the violence. Most, rights groups say, are linked to shootings and beatings by police.

Muyundo or ‘Solo7’ as he is popularly known in his home area Kibera – Nairobi’s biggest slum, has seen this kind of post election unrest before.

Ten years ago, a controversial election outcome sparked a wave of political and ethnic unrest in which 1,200 people were killed and 600,000 displaced.

“My fear was always as we approach elections, there is always tension and it disrupts business, people move out of their homes. People are always in fear and I am one of them, not knowing what will happen after elections,” said Muyundo.

Muyundo’s brush is his protest against violence, which he says is fuelled by wealthy politicians that live in mansions while the poor fight their battles for them on the streets.

Muyundo’s messages of peace and justice can be seen on doors, rusty iron sheet walls and the roads of Kibera, which was one of the hotspots of the violence, but the impact of his work is hard to measure.

“His message helps those who understand it. There are those that read them but do not follow the message but there are those that take the message to heart,” said Agnes Kayugira, a businesswoman in the slum.

When things calmed down, Muyundo went back to painting sign posts for shops, hair salons and the colorful minibus taxis known here as Matatus.

He also does commissioned pieces, working out of this local art studio.

Muyundo says he talks about peace all the time, not only when there is unrest.

“Like this one here, like ‘Keep Peace’, the one I have just shown you. So, whenever someone sees it you start thinking about peace and how he can maintain that peace yeah,” he said.

The Supreme Court has two weeks to hear and determine the petition, a constitutional requirement designed to minimize the period of uncertainty in case of an electoral dispute.

If the court upholds the election, Kenyatta will be sworn in. If Odinga can prove that rigging took place to an extent that would overturn the result, then Kenya must hold another presidential election in 60 days.