By Francis Mwangi
Shalom continues to target groups and key opinion shapers within communities – offering knowledge and the skills vital for dealing with contextual conflicts. Among the beneficiaries is the Kenya Artists Network, a group composed mainly of young people involved in music, visual arts, graffiti art, crafts and design, indoor games and dance. In the context of Kibera, young people have a great opportunity to reach out to each other in helping to understand the dynamics of conflict within their area and to help others to mitigate against violence.
Last month, the Kenya Artists Network group in collaboration with Shalom organized a “reach the people” activity aimed at bringing to people’s consciousness the need to understand the causes of conflicts between each other. Kibera has been a fertile ground for conflicts, owing to the fact that it is a settlement that accommodates more than 40 Kenya different ethnic communities. The artists network group performed dances that helped bring people to an open stage located at “Kisumu Ndogo” (one of the twelve villages of Kibera).
The young people of Kenya Artists Network utilized this opportunity to educate the community on contextual conflicts amongst them. The chairperson of the organization, Vincent, engaged the people in reflecting on some of the causes of conflict in Kibera. The people identified land issue and ethnic politics as major triggers of conflicts.
“We appreciate the initiative of our sons and daughters in helping us reflect on the causes of conflict here at Kibera. We know that young people have been used in executing communal conflicts, let us reverse history and use them as ambassadors of peace,” said one of the participants from the crowd. “If we want change young people must be at the forefront.”
At the close of the day the Kenya Artists Network group had a review with Shalom team representatives to reflect on the activity’s results – thinking how to replicate the experience to the whole of Kibera. “We must keep the flame alive and focus on reaching to all the twelve villages with similar message,” David, a network member asserted.
Shalom believes that involving young people in its work is key to realizing change. Though young people may not be the masterminds of many current conflicts especially those linked to politics they are in fact the executers. The value of working with such groups is supported by the fact that there are various activities that keep them together – providing platform for sustainability.