By Naftali Ruttoh
Kibera, an expansive informal settlement in Nairobi lies about 5km to the South-West of city centre. The place is home to several ethnic groups, the predominant ones being the Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba, Nubians and the Luhya. People live in deplorable conditions characterized by poor housing, poor sanitation, and inadequate clean water for domestic use among others. Moreover, high levels of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty have contributed in the rise of social vices such as crime and drug abuse. All these problems contribute to the senseless killing of human beings and perpetual conflict in Kibera.
The cycle of interethnic conflicts arising from political incitement, landlord-tenant rivalry and competition for the limited resources especially land has forced residents to dwell in ethnic villages. These villages are; Soweto, Mashimoni, Silanga, Makina, Lindi, Kisumu Ndogo, Kianda, Laini Saba, Gatuikira and Gatwekera. The most pronounced ethnic conflict so far is between the Luo and the Kikuyu communities. This is attributed to the political rivalry between them resulting from political incitements.
Since January 2016, Shalom has been training the Kibera Influential Opinion Shapers. The training has primarily been on conflict prevention and management. The intent of these series of workshops is to build the capacity of the residents in managing impending and even ongoing conflicts in places of residence. These skills are timely especially due to the upcoming general elections, which often are characterised by political tensions. The training culminated in the drawing of an action plan. The group also agreed to contribute in eradicating negative ethnicity and landlord-tenant conflict by sensitizing communities through Pamoja FM, a local radio station in Kibera.
The radio talk show was aired live on 21st July, 2016 where two representatives from Shalom, one from Christ the King Parish and three members of the community deliberated on several conflict-related issues in Kibera. Key to note is the fact that the show elicited positive reactions from the listeners. The callers raised pertinent conflict-related problems that they face. Political incitement emerged as a key contributor to the continued cycle of violence. Most of the phone calls received attributed the perpetual conflict to speeches made during political rallies which often are laced with divisive messages. Injustices such as those of alleged forceful eviction hence creating of internally displaced persons also arose from the talk show.
Ms. Eunice Waithira, a representative of Kibera Women Peace Group was concerned especially with the violence that arise during election time. For her, women and children bear the brunt of violence. Often, when violence breaks in the sprawling slum their children are killed, girls and women raped and property is destroyed. These leave them devastated and unable to cater for their families as the prices of basic commodities such as food go unreasonable high. She therefore called on all the residents of Kibera to maintain peace especially as the elections draw closer.
The youth representative, Mr. Constant Nyongesa, lauded the SCCRR team for its high level of inclusivity in its activities. According to him, the inclusion of the youth in the peace process is indispensable as they have immense potential in steering the Kibera dwellers towards positive peace. Through the Kibera Arts Network Group, they have had several performances vouching for peace. Such other pieces of art as beading, making and selling of curios as well as recording and selling songs have engaged the youth. These have significantly reduced the number of youth engaged in crime.
SCCRR’s efforts in trying to restore harmony in the informal settlement was applauded. Callers acknowledged that indeed they have been reached by their representatives through chiefs’ barazas. Rotational community dialogues spearheaded by representatives trained by SCCRR have also been conducted in the various villages within the slum. As such, the talk show was so much welcome, as callers requested that they be granted more time to contribute in the subsequent show.