2017 is the year that Kenyans awaited with great optimism. This was, and still is, a time for the citizens to determine who governs the country and what would be the political ideologies that steer their own lives towards even greater security and prosperity. The great anticipation and the heightened competition that has characterised the August 8th 2017 general elections led to some places being regarded as hotspots for electoral violence. The memories of over 1,200 killed, 60,000 maimed and 500,000 displaced in the aftermath of the 2007 elections were still close to the bone.
Key among these hotspots were the major slum areas in Kenya’s capital Nairobi and the cosmopolitan town of Nakuru which is the headquarter town of the former Rift Valley province. Throughout 2016/17 the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) played a very central role in supporting conflict prevention processes in these hotspot areas through election preparedness workshops helping to empower people’s readiness for a peaceful electoral process. In addition to these urban centers, SCCRR also intervened in the arid and semi-arid counties of Marsabit, West Pokot, Samburu, Turkana and Tana-River which had been considered as possible conflict hotspots due to the promises of the devolved system of governance and the day to day struggles for survival.
In the period prior to the August general elections, SCCRR successfully conducted a total of 59 workshops. These workshops brought together over 2000 community leaders who were trained on skills and techniques of preventing electoral violence with the aim of creating and operationalising context based systems of conflict early warning and early response. The community leaders that were trained by SCCRR were able to reach out to several community groups including youth groups in every target area. The frequent reporting of conflict signs coupled by the peace messages that were taken to all sectors of the population by the empowered community leaders had a significant contribution towards prevention of electoral related violence. This is evident in the acknowledgement by chiefs, elders, religious, women and youth leaders who benefited from our work, and in the reality that no major violence was reported in these areas despite them being classified as volatile hotspots.
However, in light of the decision by the opposition party to contest in court the outcome of the 2017 elections and the subsequent ruling by the Supreme Court on 1st September 2017 annulling the election results, Shalom is well prepared to offer further assistance to the country. The uncertainty about possible dangerous incidents in the run up to the forthcoming presidential election next month (October, 17th) calls for urgent engagement by the Shalom team in Kenya and from partners around the world. There is a dire need to assist in further consolidating the peacebuilding efforts of the communities living in the areas that experience fear and volatility.
SCCRR is already actively conducting consultative meetings and initiatives with community leaders in these locations in order to strengthen Shalom’s peace interventions by ensuring that the commitment to non-violence that was achieved prior to the August election is again maintained before, during and after the presidential poll scheduled for October. As we highlight the peacebuilding efforts that the whole team has put in place to intervene in the 2017 general elections in Kenya, the team and our beneficiaries in our project areas acknowledge the diplomacy and tireless dedication of Fr. Patrick Devine, PhD, the Executive Chairman and Fr. Oliver Noonan, MA, the Country director throughout the different phases of the program. Together we send a plea to all concerned and involved to rise to the challenge before us and serve the people with peace, securing livelihoods and honouring everyone’s dignity. We thank all of you who are so generously putting your hand to the plough.
By Program Management Team:
Godfrey Okoth Onyango, MA, Program Manager
Joyce Wamae Waceke, MA, Assistant Program Manager
Paulson Erot Tadeo, MA, Assistant Program Manager