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See also: Kenya
Peace and Reconciliation
Following the violence that has been witnessed in virtually all provinces in Kenya following the disputed results of the December 27th Presidential |elections, Ugunja Community Resource Centre took initiative in trying to bring various stakeholders within Siaya District, which has also been hit by the violence and lawlessness, in search of workable solutions at the local level.
Various comments have been made on the root cause and most are agreed that there were allegations of serious anomalies which have also since been expressed by authorities in the process led by none other than the Chair of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. However, despite these anomalies, whether real or imagined, law and order must be maintained by all and sundry.
Siaya district in itself has witnessed various acts of violence and looting. Ugunja town has seen its own share of looting and stoning of vehicles passing through the highway. The larger Ugenya Parliamentary Constituency which is one of three constituencies in Siaya District has also witnessed its share of riots and damage to property.
The purpose of these meetings was not to allocate blame but to find a workable solution to the conflict at our own level. The tensions at the national level may require a political solution and high level negotiations, but at the grass root level, where people of various ethno-racio-relgio backgrounds co-exist, we MUST always ensure that harmony is maintained.
Democracy and good governance are prerequisites for peace. Good governance is not just a duty of the leader but also a duty and obligation of the led. Just as we expect the leaders to adhere to laws of the land, so should we also adhere to the laws and any advocacy thereof should only be through peaceful and non-violent action.
In view of the above, UCRC through its Peace and Conflict Resolution desk thus found it fit to bring stakeholders together. Several meetings have been held in the last week and special outreach to the youth has been ongoing especially around major trouble spots.
On Monday 7th January 2008, a one day Consultative Leaders' Forum was hosted by Ugunja Community Resource Centre at Hotel Camunya in Ugunja. The participants were drawn from civil societies, church leadership, youth, women, teachers, business community, provincial administration etc.
The meeting resolved to form three sub-committees namely Business and security, Advocacy and Reconciliation, as well as Relief and Social welfare: The following short term actions were recommended for the next one month after which the mandate of this team shall be terminated, reviewed or extended.
The short term resolution of this Sub-committee are:
i. To hold security meetings with all stakeholders from the village level and these are to be facilitated by area Chiefs and their assistants ii. Police to intensify patrols around trouble spots and chiefs urged to enhance community policying. iii. Politicians are urged to avoid propaganda, hate speech and incitement. iv. All politicians be urged to preach peace at peace meetings and at every available opportunity
2. Relief and Social Welfare � This subcommittee is being spearheaded by Relgious Leaders
The short term resolutions are : i. Pastors to mobilize the faithful to contribute food and foodstuffs, clothing, and cash to assist internally displaced persons coming at the Siaya District Police Headquarters ii. An inter-faiths prayer meeting to be held in Ugunja Market in Thursday 17th, January 2008.
3. Advocacy and Reconciliation � This sub-committee consisted mainly Civil society representatives and teachers.
The short-term actions of this committee are:
i. Community mobilization and sensitization on need for peace and reconciliation. ii. Outreach to communities around identified trouble spots iii. Identify resources available within Ugenya Constituency to which can be used in enhancing the healing and rebuilding process.
We understand that our contribution to the process is limited to the local level. This is where we have lived for eons and have co-existed with persons of all tribes and races. Let not one failed presidential elections make us enemies and speed us back towards the very poverty that we have been striving to alleviate.
Thanks to the entire global telecentre fraternity. Your prayers and thoughts on the mailing list have been a source of inspiration. You are truly our brethren.
Finally, we invite you all to join Kenyans not only by praying for peace, but by becoming agents and instruments of peace in your respective communities. As the national leadership begins dialgue to find out lasting solutions to the problem, we at the grassroots have an obligation to continue to mainatin peace and peaceful co-existence.
Let us live according to the prayer of St. Francis of Asisi which reads:
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; .............. Amen"
The same exercise is also scheduled to cover the other two constituencies in Siaya District.
We need your prayers and support. The process started in Ugenya parliamentary constituency by Ugunja Community Resource Centre (www.ugunja.org) has been extended to the other two constituencies in the district namely Alego - Usonga and Gem which held leaders' meetings on Wednesday 9th and Friday 11th January 2008 respectively.
This effectively covers the entire Siaya district. In Ugunja town, UCRC advocacy staff have held a series of meetings with some of the youth who have taken an active part in the looting and blocking of the main nairobi Kampala highway. These youth have been engaged in dialogue with the support of Paul Odumbe, UCRC Project officer - Youth and OVCs as well as the Acting Programmes Officer - Advocacy and Networking Bernard Oluma. Other participants in these meetings have been teachers and pastors from surrounding areas and the youth have been positive that they will not repeat the actions of the past few days.
In as much as the elections are now widely believed to have been rigged, life has to continue while we all pursue justice through active Non-Violence avenues.
The Alego team has been active on the ground and within a day of formation, they too visited the over 100 displaced persons at the Siaya District Police Headquarters. They contributed some supllies purchased with funds raised from the business community. Most improtant though is that the security team and the advocay team from alego have already began engaging various segments of the popultaion especially the youth in discussions on maintaining peace. The idea is that you do not destroy property or lives but rather you use peaceful weaponry.
At the Siaya District Police Headquarters, there are a number of displaced children who are due to report to local schools. Teachers are also camping here. Life does not stop because one person allegedly stole and election.
A similar process commenced in Kisumu City on Saturday 12th, January which has by far witnessed the highest level of destruction countrywide.
This process does not seek to apportion blame. Nor do we pretend to have the solutions at the grassroot level. Interactions between UCRC staff and some of the youth engaging in the looting and destruction reveal that Kenyans still have the will to live in Peace and to co-exist peacefully