January 23rd 2018

Top Stories / 2017 Elections

NGOs start peace building initiatives in Nairobi as tension builds up in some slum areas ahead of elections

The largest number of voters in Kenya are the youth and the fear of NGO’s that the youth are largely engaged as militia who are hired as security personnel by politicians during the campaign period and might end up being used to cause chaos.

By Julius ChemiteiThursday, 13 Jul 2017 15:09 EAT

Peace volunteers stake holders evaluation session-Kariobangi.

As a result of the alarming statistics on the number of counties that have been identified as hot-spots in the August general elections, a number of Non-governmental organizations among them The Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation and Caritas Nairobi have come up with programs that are geared towards peace building around the city of Nairobi targeting informal settlements which tend to be violence-prone. 

Led by the Catholic-sponsored Shalom Centre, Caritas and Nairobi arch diocese, the programs are tailor-made to fit the voter education requirements, electoral laws induction programs and peace building driven messages and sessions. The key model they use is ending conflict through research and their main role in informal Nairobi areas is to empower the citizens read the indicators of conflict, prepare them on how to react and what action to take. Peter Linus is the deputy county Director of Shalom Kenya. "Chebukati and his IEBC team has a role to make Kenyans see the process of losing and winning process as clear as possible,’’ Dr Peter said.

Most of these programs were initiated as a way of healing and reconciliation remedies to the different communities that split during and after the 2007 elections, in Korokocho, Mathare and Kariobangi slums for instance minority communities have started or are contemplating moving out to the rural areas for fear of attacks on them by groups supporting leaders of another tribe, Redemptah Mutindi is a community volunteer on peace building with Una Uhakika a Community-based Organisation (CBO) that is working in conjunction with Shalom and Caritas she says, "when you talk to people around, some will tell you we want to move out because we are not sure of what’s going to happen, we are not sure of our peace’’ says Redemptah. This is a clear indication that despite the assurance by the security agencies a lot more needs to be done to sink the message of peace further.

"There is tension as it is at the moment although we have tried to bring together leaders and the voters to discuss  the important of maintaining peace during and after elections" ’says Mr Ambrose Muthiani Program officer Caritas Nairobi Region. He says the biggest challenge in any peace building process are the detractors who in most cases are those who feel that when the community is enlightened their jobs are at risk. He adds that the voters are now able to ask hard questions on accountability and resource allocation something that does not augur well for the political class.

Some of the successful initiatives employed by Caritas Nairobi and Shalom in Peace Building are caravans, community discos, dialogue between aspirants and voters at the community level these have helped to tone down the rivalry between groups affiliated to different political aspirants.

The largest number of voters in Kenya are the youth and the fear of NGO’s that the youth are largely engaged as militia who are hired as security personnel by politicians during the campaign period and might end up being used to cause chaos should one not be contented with the result.

Simama Africa is a CBO that works with Shalom in Kariobangi Parish, its aim is to integrate sports with peace building jigs to pass the information during slum tournaments. Stephen Omondi a 33-year old graduate in communications and media is the president and founder of the Initiative.  "Tension started immediately after the primaries because many of the youth in Kariobangi felt that their choice of leaders had been rigged out’’, says  Omondi

The main challenge with reaching out to the youth is the dependency syndrome and achieving a good number in a session of peace talks is a tall order for any organization operating on a small budget but wishes to reach as many youths as possible. However with soccer and other games Simama Africa has been able to marshal youth and successfully passed across the peace message through a number of activities like mini billboard, signing on a declaration form or distribution of drill hand bails and pamphlets.

"I was in Kariobangi in 2007 and for the first time in my life we had to cook outside in an IDP camp. I could not come back home because my community was targeted for having affiliated itself with one of the parties, these events made me start Simama Africa Initiative to put our youth together”, adds  Omondi.

National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) has raised a red flag outlining that out of 47 counties 33 are rated as hot-spots that would experience electoral-related violence come August 8th if special modalities on security are not put in place. Mathare, Kibra, Kariobangi and Korokocho  have also been highlighted by Shalom research as possible areas to watch around Nairobi County.

The writer, an experienced journalist, is a contributing reporter for the Kenya Free Press

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