It is time to make peace attractive in Kenya


As the saying goes; you don’t know the value of something until you lose it; can be true in our case when it comes to peace.
As country never in our wildest dreams did we ever imagine that one day we could experience conflict and violence to the scale witnessed in 2007/2009. We literally turned against each other.

Growing up as a young person, I was contented with the fact that conflict happens elsewhere and can never happen in Kenya. And I grew up hearing how our country was an island of peace.

And for so many years Kenya indeed was considered a beacon of hope in the sporadic conflict cluster that characterizes the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region. Let us also not forget the country’s lead role to broker peace in neighbouring countries namely Sudan and Somalia which further defined concept as an ‘island of peace” in a volatile region.

But the Post-Election Violence (PEV) was a watershed moment for our country. It represented the worst breakdown ever of democratic and constitutional governance in Kenya. It also confirmed the democratic fragility of the country following a cyclical trend of democratic progress and reversal in the era of post-multi-party Kenya.

As the CEO of the Kenya Women Finance Trust, I witnessed how businesses which had been built for many years destroyed within a day. All our branches especially in the so called hot spots areas were affected and we are still slowly recovering from it four years later. It is only then, that I realised that peace was priceless, and, will continue being so.

Even though we can say that we have learnt our lessons, and we cannot repeat the PEV scenarios, there are already utterances and activities happening that should make us question our commitment to peace.

Therefore ahead of the up-coming General elections, we need to embrace peace and make it attractive to every Kenyan. That is why the Tuvuke Initiative for Peaceful and Fair Electoral process in Kenya is a welcomed idea.

Complimenting other initiatives which are also promoting peace, the Tuvuke Initiative aims to develop pre-emptive actions and activities to forestall any pre-planned or spontaneous violence as a reaction to the electoral process or the elections outcome. And also enhance peace among Kenyans.

Every Kenyan has a responsibility to work towards healing the nation, building national unity and cohesion, collectively, within and among communities and even within every homes. Kenyans may not be in a position to affect change of political nature such as power, equity and governance, however, the public hold the key to creating a cohesive society by respecting our differences be they personality, race, ethnicity, religion, cultural, socio-economic, ability or inability; these differences are the characteristics that define us uniquely as Kenyans, and should be a strength, not a source of conflict, hence the need for civic engagement.

There is need to leverage the new legislative and constitutional mechanisms to prevent violence, bolster democracy through election of leaders with integrity and representation of marginalised groups, foster civic engagement, while emphasising the need for political dispensation to focus on addressing the problem of youth bulge as major contributor to insecurity in the country.

A key perpetrator of the post-election violence, the youth represent a heaving mass that, if properly mobilised, can generate sustainable democratic governance, promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence among Kenyan communities. However, abysmally mismanaged – as is currently the case – this group dominates in perpetrating crime, creating insecurity and fomenting unrest.

Ahead of the general elections in 2013, there is need for concrete actions to address the challenges faced by Kenyan youth to reduce their vulnerability to manipulation by politicians. The recent efforts by the Kenyan government to address the problems faced by the youth are appreciable; but much more still remains to be done.

There is need to create a platform for positive transformation of youth by encouraging the youth to harness new strategies, tools and platforms to promote national values, fusion of culture and national identity. There is also need to increase youth vigilance and participation in monitoring hate speech and conflict to give early warning on conflict in their communities.

Women were the most affected by the post-election violence, however, they are often excluded from conflict management and transformation initiatives. In the new constitutional dispensation that embraces the principles of affirmative action, and non-discrimination, there is need to proactively create a platform to involve the youth in bringing about reconciliation, national healing, peace, cohesion and integration in the country. We can make peace the currency for the 2013 General Elections.

Dr Riria is the Group CEO of Kenya Women Finance Trust and the Chairperson of the Tuvuke Initiative.

3 Replies to “It is time to make peace attractive in Kenya”

  1. all what you are saying is good! but the issue of peace doesn’t mean that when we express our views and disagree with people it then becomes absence of peace.when people we do not like group themselves this should not be taken to mean they hate other kenyans.above all people or groups should not start telling other kenyans what peace is or how to live in peace. kenyans already know. dont tell me who is a bad person or a good person,let me see for myself thier actions and conclude and make own chioce when it come to elections.

    the problem in kenya is when some people like schollars,professionals,politicians,ngo’s etc think that they can teach kenyans how to live in peace and unite—– far from it. let kenyans alone decide like the way people in uk or canada do….

  2. Kenyans are very good at escapist antics. We knew early enough in 2007 violence was going to errupt. That was simply because some of our politicians dont understand democratic culture. They think ordinary political competition is a matter of life and death. They then prime their kinsmen in to believing that they cant be defeated unless cheated. From there and knowing pretty well that their chances of winning are slim, they start preparing them for apparent defence of stolen election. Fingers are then pointed at presumed acts of intented theft of votes. Tribes are actually psyched to prepare for war! These fellows even enlist the services of sections of the media to push to fore imagined thieving conspirancies.

    However, given the fact that the fellows coming up with these hostile activities are senior politicians, action is never taken against them. Meanwhile, tension is rising all over the country. These empty politicians are the first to declare their opponents enemies and traitors of the people. But when you look at it closely, you quickly realize that these are mere self-preservation antics with no basis at all. Every one opposed to these cheats quickly become unwanted item. His kinsmen are swiftly targeted as people without “mpango” or supporting “our” enemy! Every act of a single individual is openly seen as a communal act.  

    We all remember in run up to 2007, two politicians disagreed. The reasons for disagreement were quite clear. They went their seperate ways. However, one of them still held the view that the other owed him the key to state house. And instead of courting his opponent to come to his side, the fellow went full blast to bury the other. Only to complain later that, had this “traitor stuck” with us, we could have easily won comfortably! Neeedless to say, you never pin your hopes on a political enemy unless you are a mental patient! But that line of imagining you can carry the day on the back of your opponent still hols sway in some of these conmen, obviously, smarter than the ordinary conman!

    we must be true to ourselves and clearly understand where the problem is. Initiating peace camopaigns while supporting or escaping the problem wont help. After all, Kenyans are peace
    loving people! They only turn against each other once fed with overwhelming malicious propaganda. Pointed basely accusations are the driving force behind election violence. The electoral commission should be given express extreme powers to act against hate mongers. Vicious liars should be kept where thieves are kept. Police too should be mandated to arrest any individual spewing vile propaganda in the name of campaigns. Any person implying that another is an enemy instead of political competitor should be quickly disqualified from running for any office. Further, any individual inciting the public against the police should be quickly charged and too, disqualified from running for any office. That way, we wont even need any NGO to run peace missions.     

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