Sam Kona, the leader of Peace Caravans spoke to ISAIAH LUCHELI on how to avert violence in next yearâs polls
You left a plum job in South Africa at the height of post-election violence to spearhead peace initiatives here. What did you find as the root cause of the violence?
The main cause of the violence was weak institutions such as the Judiciary and lack of confidence in the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and the police. The culture of impunity was also deeply entrenched and politicians were being viewed as demigods. Majority of them incited their supporters without fear of arrest or prosecution. The other issue is historical injustices especially land. We have been having pockets of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) since independence and this is a serious challenge to lasting peace.
Now the country is set for polls next year, have the issues been fully addressed?
No. Except for a new Constitution, all the issues that plunged the country into chaos are still intact. The on going judicial and police reforms are some of the occurrences that the country is watching keenly. The recruitment of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) official should be devoid of political machination if we have to restore public confidence in the electoral body. Land has been an emotive issue and has to be addressed carefully.
You have served in the national steering committee on peace. What is the mandate of the committee?
This is a multi stakeholders committee that comprises of the provincial administration, police, Ministry of Defense, United Nations agencies, civil society and religious organizations among other players. Its main mandate is to coordinate peace-building initiatives across the country. Though the committee has been in place since 2001, its most challenging time was during the 2008 skirmishes where its role was not felt.
Did the committee play any role in the peace that reigned after the referendum, especially in the Rift Valley?
The referendum was a landmark achievement for the peace actors in the country. The committee and the Kenya Transitional Initiative (KTI) programme came up with initiatives that were instrumental in forestalling violence in the hot spots. Peace caravans were started and they preached peace among the communities, which were pitted against each other in the disputed elections. The communities were brought together and educated on peace and peaceful coexistence. It was hard in the beginning due to the damage that was experienced in 2008 but we succeeded.
This new concept of peace caravan, explain how it worked.
The Uwiyano platform played a key role in monitoring the areas that had the potential for violence out break. This enabled the peace caravans who were on the ground respond fast and intensify peace initiatives in the potentially explosive areas. The peace caravans brought on board all the villagers from all the communities in the affected areas. Professionals, elders, morans and villagers were involved in the preaching of peace. Some of the peace caravans included Naivasha, Molo, Kuresoi, Kericho, Kuria, Transmara, Laikipia, Waso and Turkwel among many others.
Has National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) achieved much in its attempts to reign in leaders and individuals perpetuating hate and tribalism?
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