Kenya’s Grassroots Voices Speak on Peace Accord

 

Kenya’s Grassroots Voices Speak on Peace Accord

March 7, 2008

On February 28, rival leaders in Kenya signed a peace deal that allows for power-sharing. However, key details – such as when and if the presidential election should be run again and how authority will be shared between President Mwai Kibaki and newly named Prime Minister Raila Odinga – have yet to be announced. It is hoped that this agreement will bring an end to the violence that has plagued the country for more than two months. "The signing of a power-sharing agreement reveals the light at the end of the tunnel," says Everlyne Nairesiae, Program Coordinator of GROOTS Kenya, an AJWS grantee. "Jubilations were heard from all parts that were affected with the violence. It provides hope for peace coming back to our beloved nation."

Violence broke out in Kenya after the results of the December 27 election were announced. Incumbent President Kibaki was declared the winner, but opponent Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement party accused Kibaki's Democratic party of vote-rigging. When Kenyans took to the streets to protest the results, police clamped down with force, leading to clashes. The ethnic violence that followed largely pitted supporters of Odinga, who belongs to the ethnic Luo group, against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, resulting in waves of killings.

AJWS Emergency Relief Funding

AJWS emergency relief funds are supporting:

GROOTS (Grassroots Organization Together in Sisterhood) Kenya: GROOTS Kenya is working in several states to assist those affected by the violence by providing food, clothing and blankets, organizing dialogue groups, and helping business owners stay afloat through food provisions and additional capital.

Kisumu Medical Education Trust (KMET): KMET is working with the displaced to assist with basic needs, including nutrition support in western Kenya, food resources in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, and feeding programs for people living in slum cities.

Wahanda Women Development Group (WWDG): WWDG is providing food, vitamins, medicine and shelter to families displaced by the election violence.

Friends of Christ Revival Ministries (FOC-REV): Kenyan refugees have flooded into the Busian refugee camp in Uganda, and FOC-REV is responding with medical treatment and care, food distribution and cooking stoves, health education, psycho-social counseling and guidance.

As a result of the post-election chaos, over 1,500 people have been killed and more than 300,000 are now displaced. This tumult has exposed the profound ethnic tensions – many of which are rooted in grievances about land and property that date back to colonial times – in a country that is regarded as one of Africa's most stable democracies and economies.

"The horrors and sights of people being beaten up and murdered by militia groups in [Kenya] have left a big scar in the hearts of the poor men, women and children in many communities," says Nairesiae. "This permanent psychological damage will take a long time to heal."

John Francis Oketcho, the director of AJWS grantee Friends of Christ Revival Ministries based in the Ugandan border town of Busia, is concerned that a return to normalcy will take more than a government agreement. "The violence is not yet over. It is over at the higher level of administration. But at the grassroots level, there needs to be reconciliation and psychosocial support in order for people to be able to go back to their daily lives."

Nairesiae is confident that Kenya is on the path to rebuilding. "Now that Kibaki and Odinga seem to be 'reading from the same page,' tension and animosity are subsiding and thus creating a conducive environment for all the community stakeholders to re-evaluate their contribution in peace-building," she says.

After the negotiated deal was announced, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, who mediated the talks aided by the African Union's new chairman and president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, said that the work was just beginning. AJWS is working alongside grassroots efforts in Kenya in the effort to rebuild civil society. This includes emergency relief funding (see sidebar), as well as ongoing grants to organizations that are addressing important issues in Kenyan society such as girls' access to education, HIV/AIDS awareness and support for orphans and vulnerable children.

The bloodshed in Kenya has decreased but is not yet over, with new reports of ethnicity- and gender-based violence. The road to reconciliation is long, and the process of has just begun. "Many people have lost their homes; their children were killed," says Oketcho. "The memory is seared in them."