By Francis Mwangi BA, MA, Head of Monitoring and Evaluation Department, SCCRR
According to SCCRR Country Director, Oliver Noonan MA, “conflict is an impediment to development and more so where there is long-term conflicts; therefore the ending of wars and conflict must be attained if there is to be sustainable development”.
Experiencing the suffering and trauma of conflict for more than 15 years can be exhausting and socially and economically draining. This is what the communities of Molo and Kuresoi in Nakuru County, Kenya go through every day. SCCRR (Shalom) started a process with the communities seeking to transform the conflict to peace. Nakuru County is located in the Great Rift Valley part of Kenya and is known for being potentially productive in agriculture and tourism.
Since the return of multi-party politics in 1991, Molo and Kuresoi, once serene places to live, have not known stable peace. Conflicts in these areas are described as ethnic based, but in fact one of the root cause being claim over ancestral land by one of the communities. Politics, ethnically driven has been apparently exploited by leaders to trigger violent conflicts. Domicile settlement for some ethnic communities has become semi-permanent for the reason, that they are land owners with legal titles but living on land claimed by the one community on the basis of ancestry. Since 1992, Molo and Kuresoi are marked as high tension areas and normally called “hotspots in every general election that has taken place in Kenya. Elections in Kenya are characteristically ethnically won, a case for ethnic mathematics seems a plausible claim! During elections minority tribes (mostly considered migrants) have to voluntarily move out of their homes or be forcefully evicted. This happens in several areas of Nakuru County.
Shalom is currently supporting the communities of Kuresoi and Molo in a peacebuilding process aimed at building peace that is locally driven – leading to local ownership. Peacebuilding is more likely to succeed when the local community is involved in all processes – from identification of the conflict issues to finding best strategies and solutions for building positive peace. Currently, it can be observed that communities in these areas live in an environment of negative peace.
Through a multi-level process which involves leadership at the county, national government representatives in the county and community leaders at the grassroots, SCCRR supports a participatory process where all voices can be heard. Shalom’s strategy for engaging the wider population is through community-level institutions such as the Community Based Organizations (CBOs), associations, socio-economic empowerment groups (especially for women and youth), villages leaders, clusters (Nyumba Kumi), civic organizations, religious institutions and schools.
In peacebuilding local communities are better placed in identifying their shared needs, hence drawing appropriate action plans to meet them. In this context, different approaches that require high expertise must be applied given that the issues at hand are historical and linked to vital resources considered “indispensable” by communities living in those areas.
By making all processes participatory, community ownership and ‘buy-in’ of key stakeholders is achieved to a great extent. Shalom further sees participatory peacebuilding as a way of attaining sustainability founded on positive peace where communities are the main architects of their mutual security development and interdependent well being.
In peacebuilding, there are those working for peace but unfortunately there are those working against it to maintain the status quo from which they benefit. SCCRR’s intervention approach takes into account roles and interests of different stakeholders in the peace process to minimize resistance and maximize committed participation, therefore safeguarding project target outcomes.