Taking the lead in community peace-building

ACORD's work on peace-building among communities affected by cycles of violence, using the Community Social Peace and Recovery Model (CSPR Model) continues to provide inspiration among community-based organisations and stakeholders interested in or working on matters of conflict transformation around the African continent.

The ACORD CSPR Model was first developed by ACORD in Burundi in 2001 in response to the large-scale civil war. Following the Arusha peace agreement in August 2000, ACORD sought to contribute to the rapprochement between grassroots communities that had been divided by more than thirteen years of conflict. The CSPR Model is a process of community-driven dialogue aimed at analysing root causes of conflict, to begin healing of emotional wounds/trauma and undertaking negotiations to secure formal commitments for durable peaceful cohabitation and community-based recovery.

In her article published in the MDG Review, ACORD's Programmes Operations Manager noted that while peace agreements are often negotiated at national level, the aim of the CSPR Model is to extend peace processes to the local (community) level. National peace agreements, although creating an improved political environment, do not necessarily respond to the realities on the ground even though their success is dependent upon the support of the population. Those in power sometimes forget about the conflict and tensions remaining at grassroots level, once a national level political peace deal has been attained. Similarly, judicial systems are often unable to ensure accountability after conflict, either because they are deemed partial or simply because of the scale of atrocities and human right violation that require jurisprudence.

Building on Success Stories

Today, while the CSPR approach still continues to inform conflict transformation measures taken in Burundi it has crossed borders and has been successfully implemented as a pilot project in Kenya's Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces. Following the traumatic post-election events of 2007 and 2008 in Kenya, more than 1,000 lives were lost in the midst of heightened ethnic tensions especially those between the Kipsigis and Kisii communities living in Sotik and Borabu districts. This drove ACORD to replicate its CSPR with support from Oxfam Hong Kong. Read more about the ACORD Social Peace-Building Methodology and the Kenya experience in our 2008 Annual Report.

Just before the August 2010 Referendum in Kenya, communities from Sotik and Borabu called upon ACORD to provide some knowledge about the contents of the proposed constitution (which has now been ratified). Local peace-builders had earlier reported that due to ignorance about the real contents of the draft constitution, rumours and fears were spreading across the villages, creating panic and unsettling the peace that had been prevailing.

Partnering with civic education experts from Muungano Wa Elimu ya Katiba or Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO) ACORD was able to acquire a competent facilitator who was well versed with the contents of the draft constitution. Also aware about the ongoing campaigns for and against the draft constitution, ACORD was able to maintain strict neutrality and focused purely on educating the local communities assembled. The meetings were held at Riateka Church compound on 22 July and at Kahawa Market on 27 July 2010.

Local challenges, local solutions

Issues of land ownership, utilization and transfer, new systems of administration including the introduction of counties and some sections of the Bill of Rights had become the main subjects of discussion in homes, roadsides and social gatherings. Facts were hard to come by and most people were relying upon word of mouth, interpretation by politicians and radio talk shows to get information.

Civic Education

Among the local authorities who were present during the civic education meetings included local chiefs and religious leaders. The event attracted more than 100 men, women and the youth from Sotik and Borabu. All ACORD Peace Builders focal points and the social peace watch committee members were also present and actively contributed to the debates. For most of the time, both English and Kiswahili versions were read for those who did not understand English, but the whole civic education was done in Kiswahili vernacular.

"I will urge my fellow Kenyans to remain peaceful no matter what the outcome of the referendum will be. Let us not accept again to be manipulated by politicians and end up fighting among ourselves. Do you remember what happened to us during the post-election violence? We fought, we killed each other, we lost our livelihoods, and we became poorer.

Did anyone see one politician coming to help us reconcile? But we all saw ACORD and Cereal Growers Association in action, they came and now they have returned to remind us about the need to keep the peace between our communities," said Mama Momanyi Teresa.

Now in a historic turn of events, Kenya has a new constitution which has been the subject of a long and torturous struggle spanning more than 20 years where lives were lost and many people disabled in the push by civil society to create an environment where rights are respected and freedoms upheld. The local populations have been congratulated for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner during and after the voting, and this is indeed and lesson learnt that must be practiced and rehearsed during future plebiscites.