Partnership to Promote Community Peace and Reconciliation in Kenya
As Kenya is getting ready for the 2012 elections and the responsible actors for post-election violence in 2007/08 are yet to face justice, it is critical to build community peace and reconciliation to prevent a repeat of violence. The official launch of the Community Peace Recovery and Reconciliation Handbook held in Nairobi on 16 March 2011 came at a time when meaningful community reconciliation in Kenya is starting to be seen as a crucial and long-term component in both political and developmental advancement.
The launch was done in the presence of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya, Mr. Aeneas Chuma, the Chairman of the National Cohesion and Integration Committee (NCIC), Mr. Mzalendo Kibunja, ACORD Executive Director, Ousainou Ngum, national peace commissioners, peace monitors from across the country, grassroots peace initiatives such as the Tegla Lorupe Peace Foundation as well as members of the media and the international community.
Generating Leadership for Sustainable Peace
Mzalendo Kibunja displays the joint publication following the official launching
In his welcome remarks, ACORD's Executive Director Ousainou Ngum, recognised the importance of partnership in implementing sustainable community peace. ACORD, UNDP Kenya and National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management (NSC) are partnering under a UN-financed programme for "Consolidating the Peace Process and Establishing the Foundation for a successful Political Transition in Kenya 2010-2013". The handbook is a joint publication by ACORD, UNDP Kenya and NSC. It is useful for generating leadership for sustainable peace and recovery among divided communities. It offers new approaches to conflict management by allowing people to process their experiences, challenge stereotypes and prejudices, and take leadership in the search for solutions towards achieving peaceful coexistence and recovery.
"Having listened to Kenyans across the country, I think I can say that our quest for national reconciliation has not yet been accomplished. We are not yet out of the woods".
These were the words of Mzalendo Kibunja, the Chairman of the NCIC during the handbook launch. But on a positive note he observed that "Some progress has been made in various pockets of this country, the only challenge is that we need to escalate these pockets of the country so that we can achieve reconciliation". The NCIC through its strategic plan 2010 - 2012 seeks to increase knowledge and transformational practice for national reconciliation, eliminate all forms of ethnic, religious or racial discrimination and promote research and monitor the status and trends and national peace and stability.
Aeneas Chuma, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya explained in his remarks that UNDP is focusing on strengthening national capacity on conflict prevention, national cohesion and integration among others. The UNDP recognised the uniqueness of the model used by ACORD and saw a possibility of its replication in other parts of the country. For Kenya the implementation of the new constitution is also paramount.
"Peace agreements form a crucial element of strategies to restore security. However, one key weakness is that agreements are usually made at the top political level thus conspicuously excluding broad based participation. This is one of the key aspects that has led to regression to violence following the signing of peace agreements. Similarly to a constitution, the true success of any peace agreement is in its implementation", noted Mr. Chuma. He explained that the UNDP was engaged in mainstreaming the role of women in peace-building and conflict prevention, enhancing the role of the youth in violence prevention and peace building and also addressing the proliferation of armed groups and militias, which continue to pose a threat to security.
"Some People Make it Happen"
The community peace handbook using the social peace and recovery model therefore supports the divided and affected communities to take leadership to dialogue and negotiate social peace and come up with agreed social contracts for sustainable peace and recovery.
ACORD's Kenya country coordinator Leonie Sendegeya took the participants through the process documented within the handbook for community peace to occur and showed photos from the actual implementation. She stressed that meaningful peace-building was a long-term process which took into consideration community fears and anxieties, resource dynamics, language diversification, trust, historical background and many other contributing factors. For lasting peace to occur, there is need for strong foundations which are not easily shaken by transient political or popular euphoria.
A short film of the experience of implementing the model in Sotik and Borabu in Western Kenya in 2008-2009 was screened, movingly illustrating what is at stake. Community representatives from Sotik and Borabu present at the launching event subsequently shared their personal testimonies. Monica Ronoh marveled that her role as peace monitor had even led her to visit Nairobi, the capital, for the first time in her life. She presented a symbolic gift, a calabash filled with milk, a local symbol of peace, to ACORD's Leonie Sendegeya. David Nyamieno of the Cereal Growers Association, a local NGO partner of ACORD in Sotik and Borabu, added his voice saying that "Some people watch it happen, some people make it happen, some people observe and ask themselves how did you do that?" Having actually made it happen gives reason to congratulate and celebrate!
As his parting words, Mzalendo Kibunja of NCIC noted that the social peace and recovery model was ten years old and therefore time-tested, having been used by ACORD in Kenya and Burundi . He thanked ACORD for making this available for use in Kenya and encouraged to share it also with other countries in Africa and the world.
"An old Kenyan man attended a peace meeting in a nice hotel in Northern Kenya. 'Now I understand', he said. 'This is where you have kept peace. Please, open the windows, open the doors and give it freely to the people".
(Anecdote shared by one of the participants at the launch)
In the coming months, ACORD, NSC and UNDP Kenya will be organising training of trainers (TOT) workshops in Kenya's different regions to equip local NGOs, CBOs and peace monitors with the skills to facilitate community peace and enable communities be more resilient to manipulation at the time of elections, using the handbook as a resource. ACORD is engaged in similar processes in Guinea and in Democratic Republic of Congo. Read more about ACORD's work conflict transformation on peace reconciliation here .