By Getry Agizah
My life has been full of challenges as I made my way to create awareness of peace in Kenya and other African countries. I remember going to an Alternative to Violence workshop in the year 2005, in Lugari. Most of the participants felt this training was irrelevant because it was their belief at that time Kenya was a peaceful country. In 2007 and early 2008, post election violence caused that attitude to change. The violence created a deep animosity causing displacement, deaths, burning of property, and looting. It became a time of crisis for our country. Thus, we started our role as peacemakers in Kenya. While we were running up and down raising funds, we began training people to utilize the skills of peace building and reconciliation.
In 2010 Kenya came to a new dawn, the voting in of a new constitution heralding in new hope to our country. The challenge we still face is in its implementation, greatly delayed by our politicians. We can see some positive impact of the constitution: the vetting of judges, the speeding up of some cases by the judicial system, and the sense in some places that justice is coming. However, it seems anytime parliament’s power is threatened there is a slow-down of enacting various parts of the constitution.
The whole process is taking a long time due to a lack of proper prioritization by the government. We have had strikes by teachers, lecturers and doctors. There are more threats of strikes from nurses, police and others for next month. It is becoming a challenge for the government itself to handle these incidents. The question remains, “How do we get out of this?” The politicians make a lot of noise about who is right and what should be given to whom. All the while other issues such as the economy’s deficit continue to grow.
Recently four people were killed in Mt Elgon. The reasons are not well established but communities are talking about a revenge force being formed. Reports of mass killings of both community members and policemen in Tana River highlighted this week’s news report. The question is, “Who is doing this and why?” Common individuals believe truth is not coming from the government. Government officials state all conflict has been settled. However, the city of Mombasa has yet to fully settle the conflict there between Muslims and Christians.
This is a desperate moment for us Kenyans. Prayers and strategies will be very helpful. Friends, in our effort, let us do with strength what God can let us do. As Getry, I can’t do everything. However, not to do anything will be unfair for the generation to come. With our own small steps we can move somewhere. The journey of peace started with others. We are just continuing the process. We won’t finish, but we can hope to make an impact.
While talking about the importance of civic education a friend asked me, “Getry, do you think the conflict in Tana River and Mombasa is tribal?” While I was thinking about my answer, he said, “Let’s be careful. There is a section in the new constitution that stated that if the country is having internal conflict, Parliament might extend its term six months to a year.” This was the same week that there was news all over the region that parliament is considering changing the election period from March, as we all expected, to August 2013. At some point we will have a new government in place, electing seven positions. Yet, most grassroots citizens do not know the roles of all these positions. Very few, maybe 28% of Kenyans, know what to do and expect in the coming elections. Most don’t even know how the system will function.
One friend from abroad asked me, “Getry, what can we do for Kenya?” It is simple. Try to influence where you can reach. Stand together, and say, “Yes we did it.” We did to our best and God will know because he has instilled our best in us. At no time give up. Peacemakers, we don’t have time to look for disputes among ourselves; we have to start by being a role model. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I am excited about this and I like my work. We all have responsibilities — so may God help us all. Let me rush and learn more, and write again. Be blessed.
Getry Agizah is coordinator for Friends Church Peace Teams, Kenya.