November 2nd, 2012
Youth-to-youth Dialogue Sparks Hope for a Better Life in Kenya
The Kiambiu informal settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya has a long history of violent conflict. Traditionally, the source of the conflict was housing ownership and these tensions were reinforced and exploited by warring gangs. However, the conflict turned tribal and political when post-election violence spread through Nairobi in 2007 and 2008. Kiambui bore the brunt of this violence, and since then its residents have divided themselves emotionally and physically among ethnic and party lines. Unfortunately, much of the violence and criminal activity that takes place is carried out by the youth of Kiambiu. This creates deep mistrust between the provincial administration and these youth. Mistrust and violence also exists among youth of various ethnic and political affiliations which feeds into the conflict within Kiambiu as a whole.
With support from USAID, Global Communities is addressing the conflict between these various groups by implementing the Kenya Tuna Uwezo program, which focuses on building avenues for peaceful coexistence. In partnership with Peace-Net and Kitu Cha Sheria, CHF is working to break down the deep mistrust and enmity between these groups by facilitating meaningful dialogue.
Global Communities staff kicked off the program by meeting with “at risk” youth groups, most of whom identified with the Taliban and Mungiki gangs that were part of deeply involved in the post election violence of 2007 and 2008. Through various techniques including silent diplomacy, shuttle mediations, role modeling, human relationship mapping, inter-village conflict mapping and analysis and cell phone ‘caucuses’ with influential youth and community leadership, the Kenya Tuna Uwezo program has peacefully brought together youth who have not had a nonviolent meeting in over twelve years.
In a cross identity dialogue forum which brought together the youth from the two warring gangs, youth on both sides confessed their engagement in violent activities against one another and admitted that they have been misused by politicians and elders and committed to work together to ensure that the violent conflict that took place in 2007/8 does not happen again.
Mwangi, an at risk youth who attended a meeting to discuss the forces that unite and divide the people of Kiambiu, shared his thoughts on the meeting. “This is an important day for me, we have never met youths at this magnitude, … those ethnic demarcations are destroyed today.”
Mr. Muiruri, the provincial officer for District also expressed his amazement that the youth could agree to meet in such a dialogue. Previous efforts on the part of the provincial administration to bring the groups under one meeting has never succeeded. According to Mr. Muiruri, “These youths have never come face to face since 2001, this is the greatest achievement for peace in Kiambiu.”
Today, the youth from all six villages of Kiambiu are going through the challenging experience of confronting the violence and conflict in their pasts. In order to move forward and to continue to build peace with each other, the youth from all different ethnic groups are organizing various activities such as football tournaments. Through these processes, people who were once disconnected by hostility are slowly reconnecting. Additionally, youth who were also at odds with their local government are now holding round table discussions and channeling their grievances peacefully to the district level officials. The communities are opening up to one another and warring youth are reconnecting and working together to strategize on how to improve their community. The language is changing, the behavior is changing and the focus is shifting from strategizing how to fight to how to do development together, proving that change is possible.