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Critical lessons for integration commission’s peace initiative

By Dann Okoth | August 12th 2012
NCIC chairman Mzalendo kibunjia (R) at a peace forum.

By Dann Okoth

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC)’s recent peace initiative in Nakuru County provides critical lessons on the delicate nature of peace building and conflict management.

NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia, who led the initiative, should now adopt an approach that recognises the fact that peace building encompasses long-term transformative efforts as well as peacemaking and peacekeeping.

It is important that the NCIC seeks to find answers to the lingering issues raised regarding the Draft National Policy on Peace Building and Conflict Management (NPPBCM) developed in August 2007 to address challenges to sustainable peace.

Perhaps, because therein lies the answers to the ‘false’ start of peace initiatives in the 10 counties of Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, Isiolo, Marsabit, Bungoma (Mt Elgon area), Lamu, Tana River, Nandi, Kisumu, Kericho and Kisii, which are viewed as clashes hot-spots.

These counties were worst hit by post-election violence that left more than 1,200 dead and another 500,000 displaced. The ghost of the chaos continues to haunt Kenyans, what with the enduring plight of many internally displaced persons, ethnic tensions and the heated national political climate.

After six MPs in Nakuru County rejected the peace initiative, snubbing a peace caravan to reconcile and encourage peaceful co-existence between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, NCIC must return to the drawing board to address political tensions ahead of the General Election, since the communities appreciate the process.

Draft policy

Dr Kibunjia and his team will have to heed the advice sounded out by non-State actors involved in peace building and conflict management this week during a meeting with journalists in Nairobi. NCIC should urgently study, evaluate and interrogate the draft peace building policy has largely remained away from the public domain, even as the country looks ahead to a National Peace Conference on August 27.

The Draft National Peace Policy is already coming into sharp focus as civil society calls for a renewed urgency to finalise its development, noting that it needs to be re-aligned to the new Constitution and the National Accord and Reconciliation Act that set up the Coalition Government.

Peace building civil society organisations are alarmed that the critical concerns raised about the Draft National Peace Policy remain unaddressed. NCIC should run fast to these peace lobbyists led by the Peace and Development Network Trust (PeaceNet) if it hopes to jump-start the abortive peace bid in the 10 hotspots.

“There are critical gaps in the current draft National Peace policy, for instance lack of clear cut policy statements, as well as an implementation framework that need to be addressed,” says PeaceNet Chief Executive Officer Stephen Kirimi.

Before reaching out to politicians calling for an all-inclusive process to achieve harmony in the transition period into a devolved system of governance, Kibunjia’s team should tread with caution because the politicians themselves have been identified as one of the causes of clashes, including the post-election violence.

Instead, the NCIC team should huddle and hob-nob with PeaceNet, rope in other stakeholders in seeking a smooth roadmap to a peaceful election and possibly a permanent solution to the ever looming threat of ethnic tension, violence, loss of life and destruction of property.

Subject matter

Civil society is raising genuine concerns about the Draft National Peace Policy and NCIC must remain wary of remarks of a working group hosted by PeaceNet at a media briefing in Nairobi this week: “The Draft National Peace Policy is not cognizant of other existing peace building structures like the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the ministries of Finance, Special Programmes among others through mapping. In particular, only a passing mention is made of the NCIC, a permanent body whose mandate directly relates to the subject matter of the policy....”

A harsh indictment indeed, bearing in mind that NCIC teams are already in the 10 counties, ostensibly “fine-tuning plans for peace building”.

They will have to retreat and re-evaluate their role and intervention mechanisms if they hope to make an impact the reason why a Peace Policy that “...articulates a clear link between ... non-specialised mechanisms and the specialised mechanisms of the national peace infrastructure at national and county level on matters of collaboration, information and interventions sharing” is critical, offers Dr Godfrey Musila, a policy expert. 

All the same, the NCIC may not achieve much without the involvement of local politicians who hold significant influence within their communities. It has to keep in mind the politicians’ role in stoking and defusing ethnic tension according to victims of past ethnic clashes in Molo, an area where the NCIC peace initiative became a cropper.


Bad blood

Kibunjia has admitted that the commission was let down by the leaders in Nakuru County, forcing it to host closed-door talks for MPs, civic leaders, elders, women and religious leaders. There is apparently bad blood between politicians and elders working with NCIC to promote peace among the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities.

Nakuru County MPs are Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru Town), John Mututho (Naivasha), Joseph Kiuna (Molo), Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi), Luka Kigen (Rongai) and Nelson Gaichuhie (Subukia). The MPs and local politicians who shunned the initiative are calling for an all-inclusive process.

Even as Kibunjia also concurs with the leaders that peace building is all-inclusive, continuous process and that leaders need to speak in one voice, all stakeholders –IDPs and non-State actors, must be involved in the process. Civil society has welcomed his concurrence and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs has pledged support for NCIC through the electioneering period, a peaceful General Election and a smooth transition of power next year.

It is within this context that NCIC must re-asses its’ controversial power-sharing of elective posts proposals, the thorny land issue, prosecution and restitution of historical injustices and the fair distribution of resources before the unveiling of county governments under the devolved system.

Above all it must review and renew its association and forge a cosy relationship with the national network of peace building civil society organizations from across the country by remaining true to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.


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