Communities Without Boundaries International carried out an assessment missions in Kenya during the week of June 6 – 10, 2011. CWBI’s team visited Nairobi and Garissa, the capital of the North Eastern Province in Kenya to assess the challenges and opportunities of engaging the country in addressing potential or latent conflict that might attend the county’s 2012 elections. During its visit, CWBI met with a significant number of university students, civil society representatives, and government officials.
CWBI’s team consisted of its president, Johnny J. Mack, vice president for programs, Maneshka Eliatamby, and consultant to CWBI, Stephen Seda. In addition to holding meetings with key eminent persons and organizations/agencies, CWBI conducted an introductory training on nonviolence philosophy and methodology as espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. at Daystar University—Nairobi Campus for approximately 50 students. At least two professors from the university attended the training, and afterwards, spoke highly of the experience.
Since prior to independence from the British in December 1963, Kenya has suffered from various forms of political and social unrest stemming from internal struggles, cross-border conflicts, and conflict spill over from neighboring countries. As a result of these conflicts, communities have become divided along political and ideological lines, giving rise to protracted and cyclical waves of inter-tribal disputes. The manifestation of violence is most fierce during the country’s elections. The post-election violence that erupted in Kenya in December 2007 and that which preceded the 1992 and 1997 general elections paint a picture of a country that is severely fractured by ethnic cleavages. Although mediation efforts by Kofi Anan and the vision of President Kibaki and Prime Minster Odinga led to a Government of National Unity between Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), Kenya is not yet safe from a resurgence of violence.
In 2011 Kenya once again finds itself at crossroads with elections to be held in just over a year. Having adopted conflict prevention mechanisms to mitigate election-related violence by including peacebuilding and conflict resolution activities as part of Kenya’s development program, Kenya is a trailblazer, both regionally and globally. In efforts to assist Kenya realize her goals of preventing violence prior to, during, and post elections, CWBI seeks to launch Preventing Chaos – (The Project). The Project developed under the umbrella of its Chaos to Community Global Initiative identifies vulnerable communities, promotes attitudinal change and mutual respect among disparate groups, and develops early warning systems, while increasing tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Preventing Chaos addresses conflict before it manifests itself in a violent form, promoting understanding through meaningful and sustained interaction between disparate groups, and by creating a space within which such groups can interact, communicate, and collaborate. Such meaningful and sustained contact can shift the attitudes and perceptions groups have toward one another, transforming hardened positions into more malleable, inclusive and non-threatening ones, thereby preventing violence.
Avoiding violent expression of conflict is a challenging task—one that very few disciplines have been successful at achieving. However, history indicates that the philosophy and methodology of nonviolence are simultaneously an ideal theoretical and practical framework for positive and peaceful change. The Preventing Chaos Program is based on the understanding that violence does not erupt unexpectedly. It is a manifestation of individual and community issues, often accumulated over a period of time. Such issues can be addressed through nonviolent means, preventing the outbreak of hostile and violent conflict.
CWBI enjoyed a productive visit to Kenya, its staff well received by all parties and its program ideas enthusiastically embraced. We will return to Kenya in July 2011 to launch the program.