By Arthur Magero Abonyo, MA
Naivasha is one of the eleven sub-counties of Nakuru county on the North West of Nairobi with an estimated population of 181,966 (2009 census). In the past Naivasha has been the location that hosted various negotiation talks like the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought an end to the Second Sudanese Civil War branded the “Naivasha Agreement”, signed on January 9, 2005, by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. However, Naivasha is not immune to its own violent intra and inter-ethnic conflict.
In 2007/08, Naivasha experienced ferocious blood-letting inter-ethnic violence as a result of the disputed presidential electoral results. The hatred and stereotype between the ethnic groups in Nakuru coerced other ethnic groups to relocate to their ancestral land before the 2013 general election. Though the opposition claimed rigging to have been used, the political atmosphere on ethnic line remained calm with few traces of violence in opposition’s strongholds that caused injuries and damage to property. More so, in 2016 just after the Christmas day, there was intra-ethnic violence in Naivasha between the residence of Naivasha and those of Kinangop over land issues as they differed on delineation of boundaries and about 20 people were injured. Indeed, the 2007/08 post-election violent and 2016 violent over land boundaries left deep-rooted hatred in the lives of Naivasha residence who suffered injuries, displacements, loss of lives and property that left some traumatized. In conferring with some of the residence, the town is prone to inter and intra-ethnic violence because of the brutality employed by the violent youth, and power-sources often hidden behind them, among other issues. They also emphasized on ethnic diversity within the sub-county where people have not grasped the reality or the fact that “We are all Kenyans” instead they operate on the notion of “WE” vs “THEM” that is socially, politically and economically destructive to the entire sub-county of Naivasha. This may well be considered as a lack of patriotism to the common good; something that is needed urgently.
Accordingly, to intervene in this growing tensions in the Naivasha area, the Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) carried out in-depth conflict mapping workshops aimed at understanding the history of violence in Naivasha, the parties involved, the underlying causes of violence and their consequences. This was successfully completed with the objective of enabling peace to blossom and spread, and at the end fulfill the desired goal of peaceful coexistence between the different ethnic groups in the sub-county.
However, with just a few months to the general elections in Kenya staged on August 8 2017, the political tense atmosphere has conclusively been linked to the changing dynamics of ethnic relations in Naivasha area and hence real danger of violence erupting. Evidence is seen in threatening leaflets that have been dropped to try and force people to relocate.
SCCRR, as requested by deeply concerned stakeholders has had a series of conflict transformation and peace-building workshops to establish harmony and peaceful coexistence among the different ethnic tribes in Naivasha sub-county. The workshops conducted in 2016 and 2017 were aimed at Training of Trainers (ToTs) on Election preparedness. The participants to this workshops were: Chiefs, Village Elders, Nyumba kumi initiative leaders, local youth and women group leaders, local transport owners such as boda boda riders, Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC) leaders, Catechists, Leaders from Protestant Churches, of whom represented various ethnic groups.
Through the trainings facilitated by Shalom on election preparedness, the participants acquired the knowledge on how elections are a key element of democratic processes that should provide peaceful change of governance and transition of power. This is because the legitimacy of an election in any electoral process is highly determined by the absence or presence of election related violence before, during and after election.
Emerging from the workshop, it was noted that women and other vulnerable groups such as youths should also be involved in peace-building initiatives. The participants also recommended for long-term effort to manage and prevent election-related violence to all levels of leadership in order to build a strong democratic and peaceful society based on the rule of law, transparency and accountability not only in Naivasha but in entire Country of Kenya. Action plans were developed by participants who aimed at preventing election related violence with the assist of Shalom Staff. The participants planned to use chief’s meetings (Barazas), Church congregations, youth groups, women and men groups as avenues to disseminate the knowledge and skills they acquired after the training on election preparedness. Indeed the involvement of the relevant grassroots people from Naivasha, by SCCRR in the election preparedness training is crucial as they will be resourceful in educating the local community on importance of carrying out general elections in a peaceful way. The stakeholders were not only appreciative of SHALOM and its world wide net of supporters but very anxious that Shalom continue to journey, train and shoulder their life concerns going forward.