By Francis Mwangi
Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) continues to support communities in rebuilding relationships by empowering them with knowledge and skills in conflict prevention, management and transformation.
Shalom has been conducting peacebuilding activities in Nakuru County which has and continues to experience many ethno-political based conflicts. Nakuru is located at North West of Nairobi about 160 kms by road. As a County in the Rift Valley region of Kenya it is blessed with both touristic and historical sites such as lakes, wildlife and mountains. Nakuru is a highly multi-ethnic inhabited county with Kikuyu and Kalenjin making up about 70% of the county’s population. Other ethnic groups with considerably high representation are the Luo, Luhya, Kamba, Meru and Kisii. These ethnic groups have been involved in many violent conflicts leading to deaths, injuries and displacements. Most conflicts have occurred especially during general elections in 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2008. Unresolved lands issues have largely been blamed as the major cause of conflict with election periods serving as a time to settle grievances through violent evictions and killings. Currently, some ethnic groups have been threatened with eviction notices whereby ethnic-based conflicts may lead to injuries and deaths.
In the month of August and September 2016, Shalom involved over forty local leaders and one hundred and ten youths in key grass-root activities. The aim was to facilitate them with skills of analysis at the personal, relational, institutional and cultural level in addition to strategies for negotiation. Local leaders are important due to their influence in the socio-political realm, and often youths are used as the executors of ethno-political violent conflicts in times of elections. The target areas were Nakuru town, Bahati and Molo constituencies where the target areas incorporated Rhonda, Kaptembwa, Kivumbini, Manyani, Machanga, and Ponda. The activities focused on two key issues: Situational/scenario analysis of Nakuru County looking forward towards 2017 general elections and strategies for preventing violence.
Key points of action for conflict prevention were to make use of the existing formal and informal early warning structures. Second point of action was to intensify training in conflict prevention, management and transformation for local groups at the grassroots through the trained Shalom groups. Several Peace Circles have been established, inter-communal cohesion activities conducted with positive results realized. Through the groups trained by Shalom, more than 1000 peace ambassadors have been empowered with peacebuilding skills and are impacting the larger community.
Certain areas were marked as hotspots requiring special attention in Nakuru County through a well coordinated Early Warning Response mechanism. SCCRR will journey with these groups over the coming critical months leading up to the general elections in 2017. Much has been achieved but there is more to be done to ensure peace is maintained and SCCRR is on the ground operating and supporting at different levels to insure people are equipped with the necessary skills to promote peace in their communities.