Engagement on the Potential Peace and Conflict Issues during and after Kenya’s October 2017 Elections.
Fergal Keane, BBC Africa Editor, writing on the aftermath of the October Kenya election in the Irish Sunday Independent, October 29th, 2017 (Ireland’s Largest selling Newspaper)
“Let me give you a Kenyan example that gladdens my heart. It has a strong Irish connection too. On the eve of the election I went to the Nairobi offices of the group Shalom, where two Irish priests, Fr Patrick Devine from Roscommon, and Fr Oliver Noonan of Cork city, work with a team of conflict preventers from across the country’s tribal patchwork.
Every day they are busy in the flashpoint areas. Their phones ring constantly.
“It’s only by being consistent and having highly trained people, and by developing relationships on the ground, that you can get results,” said Fr Devine. He told me proudly that everyone on the team was qualified to MA level in peace studies. They were focused, calm, objective. No tribalist politician was going to sway them. Kenya needs them in its slums and beleaguered western villages where tension is rising by the day. What they do here matters to all of Africa.”(Fergal Keane).
In the aftermath of the Kenya’s 2007 – 2008 post-election violence, Shalom-SCCRR designed an election preparedness-conflict prevention program with an objective of building tolerance and trust among communities before, during and after electioneering periods. The key influential community leaders trained have been working together in responding to possible electoral related violence in their own respective communities across the country.
On 24th October 2017, just two days to the repeat of the Kenya’s highly contested presidential elections, Shalom-SCCRR was pleased to receive four renowned BBC media personnel, Mr. Fergal Keane (Africa Editor-BBC), Mr. Dominic Hurst (Senior Producer-BBC), Ms. Lilian Muendo (BBC journalist Nairobi) and Mr. Tony Fallshaw (Picture Correspondent-BBC). These journalists had expressed interest to have a meeting with the Shalom-SCCRR team. SCCRR personnel at the meeting were Rev. Dr. Patrick Devine SCCRR’s Executive Chairman, Fr. Oliver Noonan, MA (Country Director), Dr. Peterlinus Ouma (Deputy Country Director, Mr. Godfrey Okoth, MA (Program Manager), Ms. Joyce Wamae, MA (Assistant Program Manager, Peace Education) and Mr. Paulson Erot, MA (Assistant Program Manager, Training). BBC, requested to be briefed on Shalom’s knowledge and perceptions of the current political situation in the country, the potential for peace or conflict, as well as being interested in the interventions implemented by the Shalom-SCCRR to nurture peaceful co-existence among different ethnic communities during this highly charged period. Bearing in mind the significant role played by the Shalom-SCCRR in peace and development in Kenya, particularly it’s specific contribution through its programs on the prevention and management of possible electoral violence since 2013, and again in August and October 2017 elections, this meeting was very relevant and timely.
After a warm welcome by Fr. Patrick and introductions all around, the SCCRR’s team presented an evenhanded and realistic update on how the current political situation has brought uncertainty and tension that has gripped the country, slowing down socio-economic activities, and making everyone to be locked in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode. According to the SCCRR’s team, the Kenya’s 2017 presidential election re-run has seen many twists and turns, and the run up to the Election Day on 26th October is marked by daily rumours, speculation and conjecture that have only led to more confusion. Currently, most Kenyans are divided along the two major political parties; Jubilee and NASA with both parties having, in general distinct, ethnic allegiances. While one section of Kenyans, allied to Jubilee party, is ready to participate in the upcoming presidential election re-run, another section, allied to NASA party, has decided to boycott the same election.
Since mid-2016, the SCCRR has managed to equip a total of 2,500 key influential community leaders in the hotspots counties with the knowledge and skills that have enabled them to contribute immensely in the prevention and management of electoral related violence in their respective communities. These influential leaders had drawn practical action plans geared towards creating greater tolerance and cohesion before, during and after electioneering period in the country. Whereas the SCCRR’s team was very confident of a peaceful process in the run up to the Kenya’s 2013 and August 2017 elections, that its trained peace ‘advocates’ at the grassroots level across the country would be well equipped and ready to positively deliver peaceful process during those occasions, it was not confident in the run up to the upcoming October election. Why? The October Election was not foreseen generating possible new dynamics of ethnic and party violence variables; secondly this upcoming election was being boycotted by one of the two major parties and this same party actually encouraged its followers to protest against the elections taking place at all; a recipe for conflict escalation and possible manifest violence.
After a fruitful engagement, and appreciating that the dynamics of this elections occurrence and potentialities for violence were not expected earlier in the year, the BBC’s team expressed thanks of the frank discussion and objective perceptions shared by SCCRR’s team. They showed particular interest in the fact that SCCRR already had a cohesive network of qualified and trained peace agents contributing to the prevention and management of possible electoral related violence at the grassroots level in. Upon request, the SCCRR’s team assisted the BBC’s journalists with their contact persons on the ground both in Nairobi and Western Kenya. The BBC’s team, while recognizing the fact that the dynamics of the October 2017 election were very different from the previous August’s, encouraged SCCRR’s ongoing peacebuilding contribution and commitment towards fostering immediate and long term positive peace in the country.
My thanks to Shalom’s Program management team for their contribution to this article.
By Paulson Erot (Assistant Program Manager, SCCRR)
Read the full Article written by internationally renowned BBC journalist, Mr. Fergal Keane