Social Justice - Five years ago, elections in Kenya were scarred by violence stoked by ethnic mobilization which led to more than 1,000 dead with 350,000 more displaced. Driven by hatred and rage, young hooligans and officers in uniforms raided the streets after the contentious election results were announced. Bodies piled up in the mortuaries, as innocent lives were lost based on which tribal identity card one held. Women and children, who found themselves caught in the rampage, were attacked and often sexually abused. Worshippers at the Kiambaa Church in Eldoret, remember the horror when young men from the Kalenjin and Kikuyu tribes fought around the church which housed hundreds of people who had fled their homes during the initial post-election violence. According to some of the witnesses and survivors, about 200 Kikuyu men tried to defend their women and children inside the church. After more than an hour of fighting, the Kikuyu men were overpowered by more than 1,000 Kalenjin youths who were attacking the church from all directions. It took two hours for the police to arrive and chase the attackers away. In the end, the women and children hovering inside the church were burned to death while others outside were butchered.
Preserving Peace Conference: To assist Kenyan women in their efforts to play a vital role in avoiding another wave of horrific violence our organization partnered with the leadership at the Salvation Army. The goal was to prepare, train and support these women helping them to become powerful catalysts in building safer communities.
The event mobilized 200 women leaders from the community in Kibera and the neighborhood slums such as Kawangware, and Dagoreti. In the past, these areas, due to the infiltration of gangs, drugs, criminals, and weapons have become a tinderbox of ethnic tensions and where tensions had been steadily growing. Lessons learned from the havoc created during the previous election highlighted the fact that people were clearly not prepared physically or psychologically. Therefore, the leaders were taken through conflict resolution and peace messages and generally how to safeguard the family unit in trying times. Historically, we know that women and children are left behind and therefore need to be strong. The children also needed to be informed and counseled to prevent psychological damage.
Plenary Session: highlights, topics for discussion and agreements -
1. A woman is A family leader
2. Peace in the country, continent and world start with us women and this has been proven as a gift from God.
3. A woman is the center of peace in all homes.
4. Women are the majority voters and therefore let us use our vote to count for a peaceful election.
5. Let us use our power to control what is being discussed in our various communities.
6. God listens to our prayers so let us engage in total prayers for our Nation
7. Let us guide our sons and husbands in shaping the politics of the country.
8. As women we are the most affected by chaos and therefore let us stand and be counted to avoid a repeat of 2007/8.
9. A neighbor is the most immediate person to rely on and therefore let us seek this opportunity to encourage dialogue in our neighborhood.
10. Have compassion and be concerned about the welfare of the others.
11. Always remain positive and have peace within yourself.
12. Use the soft power to maintain peace in the family.
Disaster Preparedness -
1. Have the opportunity to analyze the early warning systems i.e. hate speech.
2. Life comes first in case of a disaster i.e. fire.
3. Have constant communication with family and relatives.
Action Steps -
1. Store non perishable foods.
2. Keep the family together.
3. Talk to children about what is going in the country.
4. Avoid unnecessary trips if possible.
5. Avoid crowds.
6. Pay bills in advance-rents.
7. Have a source of information.
8. Keep contacts of key people accessible.
9. Phone charged with enough airtime.
10. Avoid wearing t-shirts and caps of a political party on voting day.
Summary of the outcomes – a worldwide effort
Fortunately, the recent election took on a peaceful tone and this success was not just good luck. Well-prepared Kenyan institutions, global nonprofit organizations and governments from around the globe collaborated to help peace win the day.
“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” Elie Wiesel
Conference Organizer: Douglas Chagali
1. Beatrice Muhonja
2. Capt. Linet Odanga
3. Cadet James Muange
4. Alice Muhatia
5. Mary Khaoma
6. Lilian Mugase
7. Magdaline Mukanda
8. Edith Minayo
9. Jane Migare
10. Delilah Iposhe
11. Rael Malesi
12. Beatrice Wanjala
13. Margret Mbonne
14. Carol Yalo
15. Lilian Nafula
17. Pheby Asaji
18. Elizabeth Nafula
19. Mary Mbula
20. Capt. Ondanga