In Focus - Peacebuilding
To talk about peacebuilding in Kenya is to talk about countless methods and practices that all feed into building a more peaceful Kenya. It’s to talk about conflict sensitivity between different communities, about mediation and alternative dispute resolution, about policy reform at a national level and building civil society to help put those reforms into effect at a local level.
It’s a privilege to be Jamii Thabiti’s Technical Lead for peacebuilding. It is a role that has allowed me to be part of work that will have lasting impact on how Kenya’s many varied communities work with each other peacefully and constructively. A highlight of my work is my role in the conflict analysis group of the National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management. In this role I’ve been able to work on tasks including the development of the national policy of peacebuilding and conflict management and on advising the steering committee on actions it should be taking, both within and without the scope of Jamii Thabiti’s work.
Some of our recent work in Baringo county highlights the challenges we face while minimising intercommunal violence. Baringo is a largely pastoral county and we first engaged with individual civil society groups to start our work there. However, many of the civil society organisations (CSOs) were led by people belonging to different ethnic groups – so our challenge was finding a way to make sure that these leaders effectively represented all of the ethnic groups, not just their own. Our answer was to deliver peacebuilding work through a consortium of CSOs, who were able to work across the different ethnicities and communities and truly take on-the-ground, close-contact ownership of the work.
And getting diverse communities to work in such a set-up is key to the long-term impact of Jamii Thabiti’s work. Peacebuilding isn’t like building a house: it’s not a short term action that results in a tangible home at the end of it. It’s long term and it’s dynamic – as long as there are humans there will be conflict, just in different dimensions and contexts, and we need to be alert and responsive to that. My aim, and that of all the peacebuilding specialists I work with, is to build the resilience of communities to withstand intercommunal violence and enact their own actions against it. Baringo county is already an example of where you can see that resilience taking shape: we intervened there and, because of our intervention, the communities and CSOs are now able to use their own structures and resources to head-off conflicts before they start, approaching them with a new perspective on how to relate to other people.