GBM Continues to Promote Peace in the Rift Valley
For the last five years, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) has been working in partnership with Green Cross Sweden to promote peace, reconciliation and environmental awareness in Kenya’s Rift Valley region. In order to engage all members of communities with history of unrest and conflict, GBM runs activities to create a space to encourage a dialogue of peace building and reconciliation. Activities include: peace building councils for community elders, sports tournaments for the youth, and peace clubs and festivals for the children. In doing so, GBM is able to engage the whole community in the peace building process.
To enable a multi-community discussion of issues relating to peace and socio-economic development, GBM facilitated the formation of peace councils which were made up of village elders from different communities. Being prominent figures in their respective communities, this enables them to gain a deeper understanding of the root causes of the conflicts in their community and thus act as change agents of peace.
To ensure that all members of the community are included, community empowerment education (CEE) schemes were run to increase public recognition of the importance of complying with laws, thereby reducing the incidences of human rights violations. The peace councils also take part in environmental restoration by planting peace trees, bringing Professor Wangari Maathai’s philosophy that “when we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and hope” into practice.
The inclusion of local youth in peace building activities was essential to mobilise the collective energy of youth that is often overlooked; in doing so it also ensures that future leaders understand the importance of peace. The formation of football clubs provided the local youth with an opportunity to play alongside others from nearby villages, with whom they had recently engaged in running battles that cost life and property. With a total of 10 clubs from the region (eight boys and two girls clubs) the matches were played in five different villages, each drawing in crowds of families and locals to watch.
During the matches, peace messages such as “Kianjoya and Segutiet Youth for Peace”, “Children Playing together in peace”, and “We are better together” were promoted. The days were a huge success, with all contending groups receiving a ball and the winners receiving an additional trophy. Accompanying the matches were games and activities for younger children and families.
Working with the town council, GBM identified a site within Molo town that will be transformed into a Peace Park, to provide a neutral meeting place for peace building councils and other community members. To celebrate the opening of the Peace Park, GBM organised a children’s peace festival in collaboration with several peace clubs. The festival was held on 21st November, engaging children with song, art, dance and poetry to communicate messages of peace.