By Francis Mwangi
In a workshop at Todonyang (a village in the northeastern corner of Turkana County Kenya that borders Ethiopia and in 2011 experienced a massacre of 31 people and a larger number maimed) a comunity leader shared a story of Shalom’s success.
“Since January this year only two deaths as linked to ethnic conflicts have been reported,” said Mr. Nyongesa. “Shalom’s work has borne these fruits. We have continuously engaged our Turkana youth and when possible the Merille youth of Ethiopia on the need to avoid senseless conflicts and cattle raids.”
He added: “we look forward to engaging leadership from both sides of the conflict… we believe that our efforts will lead to a peaceful Todonyang where we can co-exist with the Merille.” With evident emotion, he concluded: “We want Todonyang back… Bring Todonyang Back. Todonyang, where Turkana and Merrile can have a market together, fish together, go to school and attend Church together… and continue living as brothers and sisters again.”
In Samburu, Shalom’s intervention impact is reflected through the remarks of Morijo residents. Most of the work is executed through Shalom’s ToTs program where those who receive trainings now become trainers themselves in their communities. There have been several interventions to either prevent cattle raids or return stolen cattle. Paul Leshimpiro, a nurse by profession at Morijo dispensary and working also as peace ambassador says: “conflicts frequented in the past at Malaso, Naparmarai, Mpatpat and Marti are rare… We thank Shalom for the inspiration and more so, the knowledge and skills of managing the conflicts.”
Luciano, a resident and youth leader at Morijo, had this to say: “I have a brother in standard four who told me that his best friend is a Pokot boy and they share the same desk.This is a factual sign of peace being restored and enduring between the two communities.”
With support from SCCRR the ToTs have formed a Community Based Organization (CBO), Morijo Integrated Pastoralist Peace Program (MIPP) with representatives from both Pokot and Samburu people of Morijo. MIPP focuses on peace initiatives for the two communities.
The Samburu “moran” (traditonal warriors) thanks Shalom for offering training that leads them to seek alternative livelihood other than cattle raiding, in a statement related through Painot Lekirite.
During a stakeholders meeting in Nakuru County in June, Mrs. Sarah and Mr. Ogeto thanked Shalom for the continued training offered to them. As Catholic Justice and Peace Commitee (CJPC) members the sentiments of the two confirmed the outcomes of Shalom’s work: “By engaging two known rival communities in peace meetings, they can now start living together and sharing common activities.”
In Kibera (the informal slum settlement with a population of about a million people in Nairobi) Shalom is currently working with more than four groups identified as women leaders, community opinion shapers, Kibera Art Network (youth), religious and local leaders. These groups have been implementing a number of activities with the aim of containing ethnic animosity existent between communities living in Kibera – essentially taking a message of peace to individuals and groups. Today, communities are opting for dialogue when disputes and conflicts arise in the Kibera neighborhood. In a community women forum conducted in Kibera this month, the ToTs trained by Shalom asked the County Representatives to include programs in the Ward plans that will focus on addressing ethnic conflicts in Kibera. “Peace is key in development and in ensuring its sustainability,” remarked Mrs. Eunice, a leader of the Amazing Women group.
Despite the successes, Shalom has had to overcome challenges both at the implementation of project activities and at picking of results.
Though training may be considered just as an output the logistics involved in reaching these areas simply tell of the intensive dynamic planning, and commitment of both financial and human resources – ready to risk. Reaching most parts of Northern Kenya remains a key challenge given that infrastructure development is appallingly lacking – in some places none at all. The escalating insecurity has equal escalation in terms of project implementation and activity follow-up (monitoring) costs.
The challenge of getting and measuring peacebuilding results and outcomes given the context of implementation and dynamics of conflict is self-evident. Despite this, Shalom continues to strengthen its mechanisms of measuring results in peacebuilding through the implementation of participatory monitoring and evaluation system – involving activity implementers in monitoring results. This increases process and product ownership by communities while ensuring sustainability of the achieved results.
To support implementation of project activities, our presence with groups and individuals count hugely. Where and when necessary we provide material that facilitates the implementation of the activities, however, we continually encourage and empower home grown solutions from the communities to ensure sustainability and community ownership.
Peacebuilding, despite its key place in development, is a field that is demanding to sustain as John Paul Lederach and co-authors observe in Reflective Peacebuiling: “Deep-rooted conflict contexts can easily and unpredictably spiral into unexpected renewed violence, destroying months, even years of peacebuilding work.” We as Shalom are very conscious of this reality and its challenges.
As you will understand it is difficult for Shalom in working on the frontline to promise enduring peace today or tomorrow, but we can always promise that our work for peace, a peace first of all that aims at stopping the violence, identifying the root causes, addressing the personal, relational, structural/institutions and cultural factors entwined in conflict and journeying with the affected populations to a future where killing, maiming, displacement, poverty and abuse of human rights is no longer the order of the day. Most of you reading this know what lasting peace and prosperity entail but there are millions waiting for a taste of it. Shalom: professionally, steadily and assuredly walking hand in hand with the communities, families and children in conflict environments to a land where peace, respect for the dignity of life can prevail preventing a return to the days of bloodshed and neglect.