Think ahead for peace, UN advises Kenya

June 22, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jun 22 – The government has been challenged to step up its reconciliation and cohesion efforts and put more emphasis on early recovery systems among communities that suffered from last year’s post election violence (PEV).

Senior Peace and Development Advisor to the UN Office in Kenya, Dr Ozonnia Ojielo said those leading the process at the grassroots need to follow up the efforts with continuous dialogue.

“Use the Barazas but it requires you to do much more; it requires you to have sustained conversations with the communities,” he said during the launch of a training of peace building and conflict transformation for 13 Divisional Officers (Dos) on Monday.

He said an audit report of the Grand Coalition Government’s progress on reforms gave a worrying picture of the reconciliation process.

Dr Ojielo said the lack of ‘Safe Space’ for inter-ethnic dialogue only flares up mistrust.

“As DOs, how you are explaining the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), how many ‘Safe Spaces’ have you created where communities can come and say they did this to us, where people can engage in a critical conversation?” he challenged.

 The audit cites increasing ethnic mistrust, the emergence of illegal armed groups and the lack of regulations to handle vernacular radio stations and the role they played in PEV as among the issues that have not been addressed.

“The conflict drivers have not changed and those drivers deal with the structural issues that are part of Agenda 4. The perception that violence pays and that it is the only tool to attract attention; if you have not punished those who are responsible for violence, others may be inclined to violence,” he said.

Speaking at the same event, Internal Security Assistant Minister Simeon Lesirma said the government would work with local communities in its efforts to create peace and prevent conflict in the country.

He said there is need for a shift in conflict management by making the government more proactive.

“Communities would want to protect themselves in a situation where there is lack of trust and I think what we need to do as government is to ensure that they have confidence in the government security apparatus to protect them.”

Dr Ojielo said UNDP was working with the government to set up 50 District Peace Committees fitted with furniture, computers, a photocopier and fax machine to facilitate an early warning system that will be connected with the Internal Security Ministry headquarters.

The weeklong course will facilitate an understanding of issues affecting Kenya in relation to peace and conflict, promote national healing, reconciliation and cohesion and strengthen peace structures and networks at the grassroots level.

The project targets to train 400 administrative and law enforcement officers in addition to the 362 who received training last year.

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