GBM Holds Peace Actors Forum in Preparation for a Peaceful Election.
Written by Judy Kimamo - Senior Project Officer.
On the 4th of March 2013, Kenya held a historical election: one of a kind since independence. Kenyans are electing leaders under a new constitution, and the country will change into a new system of governance. There will be a new set of structures and institutions which are expected to bring meaningful change to the lives of most Kenyans. While this election is anticipated to bring about fundamental changes to the Kenyan population, in the Rift Valley Province the expectations of communities seem to be uncertain. For the Rift Valley communities there are many long-standing unresolved issues that will need to be addressed through the new political dispensation.
To tackle the uncertainty in Central and South Rift Valley, the Green Belt Movement (GBM) in partnership with the Rift Valley Provincial Peace forum (PPF), Global Veterans for Peace and the District Peace Committees (DPC) and with the support of Green Cross Sweden has lead a ‘Joint County Peace Actors Consultative Peace Forum’
The Peace Actors forum evaluated the early warning and response (CB-CEWERS) plans in preparation of possible election-related conflict and allowed people to share experiences of emerging conflict challenges. This created a better strategy to manage challenges and deliver a peaceful election.
Eight hotlines have been launched to enable the public to send free messages informing of threats, intimidation or violence. These messages will be handled confidentially through an office that has been set-up at the Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner’s Office.
The Joint Peace forum was concluded with a candle-lighting ceremony to pass on the good energy and encourage participating leaders not to tire in their efforts to enhance inter-community harmony. A peace torch was also handed over by Global Veterans & Peace Ambassadors (GLOVEPA) and GBM to the District Peace Committees to actively promote peace in their counties and the nation at large.
Rift Valley communities’ anticipated problems
In most areas, the issue of land remains emotive which can lead to increased tensions during periods of political change. Additionally there are issues around the lack of clearly defined county boundaries, the presence of unresolved Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), the issue of ethnic representation, and inequitable distribution of resources. Some of these issues have formed the campaign agenda during this election period and if they are not addressed effectively, they may polarize these areas and consequently degenerate into conflict such as that witnessed in the 2008 post-election period. How the county governments will address these issues remains to be seen. This problem is compounded by the release of regular poll results which point to intense competition between political alliances. How the outcome of the elections will be received by the people in view of these poll results remains unclear. After the elections there will also be great need to reconcile supporters of the different alliances so that they can start thinking as Kenyans and not as political rivals.
In view of these scenarios, we need to increase advocacy for peaceful elections during this period. The various peace actors need to come together frequently and synergize their roles and efforts to ward-off emerging challenges.
“[A]s political leaders play their role, citizens should refrain from violence. All 42 communities in Kenya are bound by geography and history to live as neighbors.… Let us stand up for each other, irrespective of our ethnic backgrounds and political persuasions. Injustice to one is injustice to all of us. If we, individually and collectively, are not the conscience of our country, then who is?”