Long road to peace - a practitioner's experience in Kenya

Long road to peace – a practitioner’s experience in Kenya

Kenya and neighbouring countries would benefit from an in-depth analysis of the past decade of peacebuilding interventions, in order to determine to what extent communities are better positioned to transform conflict, and what future courses of action might be pursued.

 Suggested Reading Conflict Background GCCT

By Kisuke Ndiku

Since 2007-2008, peace has attained a new dimension in Kenya, with conflict in the limelight of international donors and investors for the past decade. The space for peace has been challenged by terrorism and criminality, violent extremism, the commercialization of cattle rustling, prospecting on land in locations with extractive potential, the politicization of insecurity and other factors. Events connected to these dimensions have created increased fear, tension, and uncertainty.

In Kenya, peace has also been affected by regional issues, including instability in South Sudan and Somalia, the Oromo Liberation Front in Ethiopia and the LRA in Uganda. Instability in Somalia has often had impacts far inside Kenya, not only in the coastal and eastern Counties but also in Nairobi and across Kenyan soil into Uganda. This dimension needs to be better studied, monitored and documented so as to garner insights that would be useful in the holistic transformation of conflict in Kenya and the wider region.

The media has covered a range of interesting events related peace in Kenya, to the point where the country has been negatively branded. A number of other organizations have documented these events closely, including Cordaid, FinnChurch Aid, Norwegian Church Aid and, locally, the NCCK, and the government’s Peace and Reconciliation agencies, among others. Advisory notes by the US and UK have also been issued with such frequency that tourism has been heavily-impacted.

A cursory look at reports about peace in Kenya denotes an apparent dichotomy which suggests that different agencies understand peace differently. This is clearly depicted by the language of the definitions, terms and descriptions given about peace. Those concerned with law enforcement define peace differently from agencies concerned with peace and reconciliation in government. Inside government, a definition of peace is not uniformly defined and described. The same is true of regional bodies such as the East Africa Cooperation, Africa Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), including the trade blocks.

Among civil society and faith-based organizations, peacebuilding efforts are also defined differently from organization-to-organization, despite working in common localities and with the same communities. This is also true among international bodies, agencies and organizations like the UN, World Bank, IMF, and the Africa Development Bank. In the same vein, funding entities such as the USAID, DFID, AusiAID, Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development, the European Commission and European Union all define Kenya’s – and indeed the global peace domain – with different descriptions and language.

The details of how each of the stated agencies, organizations and entities define peace and the peacebuilding space can be easily noted by practitioners and readers alike. The use of terms, definitions and descriptions is known to affect how issues in focus are handled, which reflects upon the interventions implemented. Due to the language used, comprehension, communication and knowledge sharing are negatively affected.

In the path to peace, increasing commonalities of understanding and knowledge are vital, and could be achieved through systematic studies on language and terms in use Enhancing this would contribute towards synergizing and enriching interactions among practitioners drawn from diverse disciplines such as legal, para-legal security, and peacebuilding, and would enhance the promotion and transformation of peace in Kenya and the region.

Taking peace higher

Significant aspects of the peacebuilding interventions implemented over the last ten years in Kenya have comprised the provision of humanitarian relief; shelter and land; conflict mapping; conflict resolution; the creation and capacity-building of local peace committees; trainings for peace committees, clergy, and local leaders on peacebuilding and conflict resolution; and sports and performing arts (mainly drama and music) for youth. Women have not been specifically-targeted, nor were issues related to trauma and psychosocial support among persons and families affected.

In addition, a variety of studies have also been undertaken in recent years, both in the Rift Valley, Coastal and Northern Counties in Kenya. The focus of the studies has been on conflict, (de)radicalization, and the role of local communities in addressing conflict. Invariably, very little has been done to address aspects of what drives and sustains conflict in these localities.

The functions and roles of different organs of society in transforming conflict have not yet been identified or documented. Of particular interest is the exploration of the outcomes of a concerted ten years of interventions in peacebuilding with diverse actions, such as trainings, the creation of local peace committees, and building the capacities of local organs and practitioners. To what extent have these prepared communities to manage peace better in the future?

Furthermore, though the results of diverse peace interventions have been documented by various agencies, organizations and government departments, there has not been any known effort to frame and consolidate elements of the interventions with lessons and best practices, and the value added by such interventions on peace, except for one or two such interventions viz. Amani Mashinani by Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir on how in future peace might be promoted among communities.

These facts notwithstanding, it is imperative to review and examine the achievements from the point of view of the effects on peace. What difference has been made in last ten years in preparing communities to transform conflict, given another upcoming election? The review should also identify gaps for which new relevant interventions might have to be crafted. Building on what has been realized will be essential, along with identifying new dimensions that affect local capacities for peace and gaps on conflict issues in defined.

In the spirit of the launch of the “Year of Mercy – 2016”, this would be a direction practitioners and acting agencies might wish to contribute their resources and energies to.

Kisuke Ndiku is based at PRECISE, a regional agency involved in organizational development, strategic management of change, leadership development and planning in Africa.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of TransConflict.

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