By Sarah Kimani
Published June 10, 2013
A lot has been said about the lessons learnt from the violence experienced in the aftermath of the disputed Presidential poll in Kenya in December 2007. Ghanaian Kofi Annan, who facilitated the formation of a Grand Coalition Government if only to stop the violence in the country, observed, “When you are riding in a train, and the train gets derailed, you are well advised to look backwards at the twisted rails to find out how you got to where you are, and then look ahead to find out how you now get to where you want to go. For Kenyans today, it is a question of doing just that: looking to the past to determine when and where the country got derailed. Once that is determined, you must fix and adjust the rails towards the direction of peace, justice and prosperity.”
One way of determining “when and where the country got derailed”, is Civil Conflict Management of the Post Election Violence, a study carried out in 2012 by students of University of Trier in Germany and Kenyatta University of Kenya in co-operation with 22 Civil Society Organisations in Kenya dealing with the effects of the post election violence with the aim of finding out the lessons learnt from the post-election chaos and what can be done for the country to enjoy peace and stability.
The result of that study was a book, Peace Building and Conflict Management in Kenya–a publication on peace and reconciliation as the cornerstones for social stability and democracy of a multi-ethnic state–that was launched at Goethe-Institut in Nairobi on February 13, 2013. The publication is divided into three sections: Way Forward for Reconciliation and National Healing, The Root Causes of 2007 Post Election Crisis in Kenya, and Peace Making Initiatives.
Reconciliation is a metaphysical process that is spiritual, social and cultural and deeply touches on emotional and physical being. This, according to the book, can be achieved only when the concern for justice is given priority in the hope of eliminating or minimising hate, suspicion, resentment, and revenge among communities.
The 2007 dispute was inevitable in a country that has failed to resolve long standing conflicts and disputes such as negative ethnicity, unfair land distribution and marginalisation of some communities.
The survey found out that the formation of criminal gangs such as Mungiki, Jeshi la Mzee, Mombasa Republican Council and Chinkororo are used in carrying out acts of harassment, intimidation and killing against people who are perceived to be in opposition to the dominant political party. These militia groups come as result of unemployment and idleness, hence the survey recommends for the need to create jobs to keep the youth busy.
Establishment of Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process was initiated to achieve sustainable peace, stability and justice and to safeguard the rule of law and respect for human rights in Kenya. Civil society organisations , NGOs and the media would play vital roles in uniting Kenyans through sensitising people to refrain from hate speech and engaging youth in activities such as community work, seminars, networking and sports to promote integration among different communities.
The book illustrates various efforts put in place by various groups to ensure peace returns to Kenya.
The use of graffiti to illustrate the different scenes that were witnessed in the aftermath of 2007 presidential elections help readers to have a deeper understanding of the situation and reflect on building a peaceful Kenya. The graffiti such as ‘The leaders we want’ by Birgit Dankert states the attributes of a good leader, such as being visionary, honest, competent and patriotic; this message enlightens Kenyans to elect people of integrity besides encouraging them to shun tribalism.
The 300-page Peace Building and Conflict Management in Kenya was edited (compiled, really!) by Johannes Michael Nebe who teaches political science at the University of Trier and who has established relations with fellow lecturers in Kenya.
Though an important publication, the quality of Peace Building and Conflict Management in Kenya could have been enhanced through some tight editing and appealing layout and design.
Sarah Mokobi Kimani, from the Kenya Private Sector Alliance’s Youth Empowerment Project, is an intern in Journalism and Public Relations at ArtMatters.Info.