TCSS volunteer, Richard Sangula, with a bullhorn/megaphone that was used during the Peace Caravan that saved Mt. Elgon from election violence.
By Peter Serete, TCSC Program Coordinator
After deadly attacks and tensions on Mt. Elgon, Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) in collaboration with Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT), supported by the African Great Lakes Initiative and other donors, has been working and responding to early warnings on tribal hate speech. We decided to do a peace caravan across Mt. Elgon in hot spot areas. I previously reported when Robert Juma was shot and killed in a gruesome attack at his home on Mt Elgon after he was sprayed with bullets about midnight. (see http://davidzarembka.com/2017/07/05/report-from-kenya-446-assassination-of-peacemaker-robert-juma-on-mt-elgon-july-7-2017/).
Preventing atrocities and violence is a vital and difficult challenge in societies marked by weak law enforcement, lack of political good will, underlying historical injustices, profiling of communities based on tribe and/or political stands, and other interrelated issues. Kenya for the last two months has experience political intolerance, hatred and a hard line on which tribe is supporting a particular political party, voter bribery and intimidation, and direct violence. Kenya has been in a hot spot during the pre and post electoral period as TCSC has been key player in intervention measures for the just concluded August 8 election. Because the Kenya Supreme Court nullified the presidential election due to irregularities committed by the IEBC, we will face a repeat election. It is important to note that the election is being held against a background of a divided nation that can be triggered to bloodshed.
One positive result of this court case, regardless of how the October 17 election turns out, is that the IEBC and therefore other Kenyan governmental bodies have been put on notice that they can’t get by with doing shoddy work. They have to follow the law and produce. All governments, in my observation, move to autocracy and then dictatorship, unless there is citizen resistance. This has been an issue during Uhuru’s first term as president, but the court ruling will certainly give pause to this movement towards autocracy. The Kenyan courts have clearly declared their independence. Moreover their credibility which had been badly damaged during the 2013 election has been rehabilitated. David Zarembka.
During this period TCSC focused on building a nonviolent witness, analyses, mitigation and intervention on dangerous hate speech, election violence in the flash spot regions, and preventing possible violence as a result of dangerous hate speech.
TCSC as an organization managed to do the following programs and activities:
Mobilized and conducted refresher trainings and coordinated 1200 citizen reporters in western Kenya. Information from these citizen reporters played a key role in the communities by reporting patterns of conflict and keeping us up to date by reporting early warnings to TCSC’s Call-In Center. This same information was forwarded to Watch-dog Groups. TCSC also communicated with national and international allies’ networks that voiced the information along with recommendations for effective intervention. The Citizen Reporters on Mt. Elgon, North Rift Valley, Kisumu and parts of Kakamega County closely monitored political developments, hate speech, and campaign practices. In some cases, they mobilized nonviolent community action to challenge misconduct or to prevent violence and offer an alternative to the violent airing of grievances.
Ezra Kigondu with TCSC volunteers during civic education for youth in Cheptais. PICTURE BY PETER SERETE
TCSC conducted 124 one-day civic education workshops. These were based at the grassroots and offered basic information about the new 2010 constitution, the electoral process, and good governance. It gave communities better opportunities to analyze political leaders’ performance, share good governance examples, and examine the societal consequences of corruption, tribalism, ethnicity, violence and impunity.
This period has been overwhelming. Our heart’s desire is to make our society peaceful, a society that value life and its people. While elections come and go, our sole responsibility is to touch lives and transform our community. Getry Agizah
COMMUNITY DIALOGUE FORUMS
During this time when we experienced killings on Mt Elgon and the eruption of violence in Kisumu, we managed to conduct 18 community dialogue forums that brought people together across ethnic, religious and party lines. These were conducted in communities most vulnerable to inter-ethnic tensions and violence, including the areas hardest hit by the 2007/2008 post-election violence. In these communities, internally displaced persons had been resettled back in their homes, but very little has been done to ensure peaceful co-existence. These dialogues create a safe space and environment to enable people to discuss, across political affiliation, the issues affecting their communities. This enhances informed decisions and choices, peaceful campaigns, positive competition, and personal and party responsibility in the event of violence.
TCSC in collaboration with FCPT
- through community dialogues has successfully offered the opportunity to 650 people to build diverse coalitions across ethnic, religious and party lines
- has equipped 3100 participants with basic knowledge of the electoral process
- has created Watch Dog groups to monitor political developments, report on hate speech, hold accountable aspirants and local leaders, and, if necessary, to mobilize nonviolent community action to challenge election misconduct and interrupt violence
- to monitor community tensions and election misconduct through 1000 citizen reporters linked to a centralized Call-In Centre
- with the mobilization of 1200 volunteer observers, observed the election process, from registration to campaigning, to polling and reported nationally and internationally on the findings.
TCSC/FCPT plans on continuing these activities as needed before, during, and after the October 17 repeat election.
To be added to or removed from this listserve, please send your name and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please contribute to Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC). Donations can be sent directly to Kenya through WorldRemit. See http://davidzarembka.com/2016/12/11/world-remit-details/ for details.
Alternatively checks may be made out to “David Zarembka/TCSC” with memo of account number: 0210 33 94570 and mailed to CapitalOne Bank, 812 Muddy Branch Road, Gaithersburg, MD 20878.
You may now donate to TCSC through PayPal by clicking this link:
If you need to make a tax-deductible donation, send a check to “Friends United Meeting” with memo notation of “FCPT.” Mail this to Friends United Meeting, 101 Quaker Hill Drive, Richmond, IN 47374. Donations can also be made online at fum.org. This donation will pay for the salaries of the staff of Friends Church Peace Team/Transforming Communities for Social Change. Note that 10% of donations under $2500 are deducted to help cover FUM’s administrative costs in handling these funds.
From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.
Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)
P. O. Box 189, Kipkarren River 50241 Kenya
Phone in Kenya: 254 (0)726 590 783, in US: 301/765-4098
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/