Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya

by Transforming Community for Social Change Vetted since 2018 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit
Workshop at Peace Centre on Mt Elgon
Workshop at Peace Centre on Mt Elgon

Pain that is not Transformed is Transferred

Overall objective of the project

To build an all-inclusive society that understands peace as a way of life and create a support network healing through trainings, dialogue and negotiation

Specific objectives

  • Train both perpetrators and victims of violence
  • Have an in depth training with youth
  • Gender inclusivity in the trainings

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Many communities in Kenya are faced with high levels of trauma and insecurity, Mt. Elgon is among the many communities which are struggling with the aftermaths of tribal clashes which were as a result of land disputes. The effects of the clashes in the region includes:

  • School dropouts
  • Unwanted pregnancies
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Forced and early marriages
  • Infidelity
  • Child labor

Because of the many unresolved land issues, some of the aggrieved members of the community have ganged up to defend their land and named their group “Saboat Land Defense Force” (SLDF) under the leadership of one Wycliffe Matakwei. The gang terrorized its own kinsmen who were perceived to be sympathizers of the government. Women and children were adversely affected by this violence because of their vulnerability. Hence the mortality rate among children under five is high because accessing medical facility is a nightmare for them. One out 10 women die during delivery due to lack of post natal care and depend entirely on very inexperienced midwifes. The militia took hostage nearly all public facilities like schools, hospitals, public offices rendering them inaccessible. As a result children did not go to school; there were early marriages. Things were moving out of hand during the 2007 election when the whole country experienced post-election violence. The gang took advantage of this and propelled their agenda without fear. In fact they controlled all activities in the region by forcing people to choose one of their leaders who was in custody into an elective position. The government quickly intervened using the armed forces and resettled people. But they forgot to address the root causes. Four years later again violence erupted in Mt. Elgon. This time changing shape by not going to forest but rather targeting individuals and certain locations. This has caused a lot of fear forcing people to leave their home for safety.

With this community undergoing all these kinds of injustices, Transforming Community for Social Change did the following interventions:

1. Trainings/workshops like :

  • Alternative to Violence Program (AVP)
  • Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
  • Transformative mediation

2. Listening sessions

3. Community dialogues

Introductions

A total of fourteen workshops were conducted including one mediation, seven HROC, and 6 AVP workshops. A total of 336 people were reached during the trainings with 182 male and 154 female. The choice of venue was based on areas that were hotspots and also points where small and light weapons proliferated from the neighboring countries. The participants for the training were:

  • Victims and perpetrators
  • The elders who were used to bless the militia
  • The youths who were easy recruits of the militia group
  • Women who used to cook for the militia

The project ran for approximately three months.

Interventions

a)     Alternative to Violence Program (AVP)

The alternative to violence program (AVP) is a grass root, volunteer based program dedicated to reducing violence in our lives, homes, schools, prisons and in society at large. AVP enables participants to deal with a potentially violent situation in a new and creative way. It provide space for people to transform conflict into a win –win situation. The workshops are structured in a way that participants are able to cover AFFIRMATION, COMMUNICATION, TRUST AND COMMUNITY BUILIDING, and CREATIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION which are the main building blocks to the program. AVP uses shared  experiences of participants, interactive exercises, games and role plays to examine how people respond to situations where injustices, prejudice, frustrations and anger can lead to aggressive behaviours and violence.

AVP can help one to:

  • Manage strong feelings like anger and fear
  • Deal more effectively with risks and danger
  • Build good relationship with others
  • Communicate well in difficult situations
  • Recognize skills one has and build new ones
  • Be true to yourself while respecting others
  • Understand why conflicts happen

AVP is anchored in some philosophy among them:

  • There is good in everyone
  • We are all learners and all teachers
  • We learn by experience

AVP has three levels

  • Basic level

           Understanding and believing in yourself and respecting others

           Building trust and maintaining good relationships

           Communicating well

           Handling and managing strong emotions

  • Advanced level

           Explores conflict, nonviolence in more depth while building on skills developed in level one

           Usually participants co-operate to choose the themes of level two

  • Training of facilitators (T4F)

           Participants are chosen right from the basic training and oriented to become trainers

b)     HEALING AND REBUILIDING OUR COMMUNITIES (HROC)

Why HROC ?

  • Its designed to help people recognize and understand trauma
  • Helps people and the community to know how to deal with trauma
  • How to heal from trauma
  • To know that life continues after traumatic event
  • Helps people to reconnect themselves to their communities

The basic level is usually done in three days.

The first day is committed to looking at “trauma”---its definition, causes, symptoms and its consequences. It also gives participants an opportunity to differentiate between normal stress and traumatic stress and have an in-depth awareness  of self through the Johar’s window. The second day which is usually an emotional day focuses on loss, grief and mourning and gives participants space to share their personal loss. This day also reflects on anger and how people can respond to it constrictively. The last day looks at trust and mistrust and how people can rebuild trust in communities where such a history of awful things happened. The basic workshop is the corner stone in a larger program designed to build community capacity to respond to widespread trauma and strengthen inter-connection’s and reduce isolations.

HROC just like AVP is anchored in its philosophies:

  • In every person, there is something that is good
  • Each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition on how to recover from trauma. sometimes the wounds are so profound that people or communities need support to reencounter that inner capacity
  • Both victims and perpetrators of violence can experience trauma and its after-effects
  • Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. it’s through this effort that trust can begin to be restored

After the trainings there is usually a one day follow up and community celebration that bring everyone together who has gone through the training. It also helps in identifying people who will walk with those that have already started the journey of healing commonly known as “healing companions.”

Transformative mediation

Mediation is a process in which a third party works with parties in a conflict to help them change the quality of their conflict interaction from negative and destructive to positive and constructive, as they discuss and explore various topics and possibilities for resolution.

Transformative mediation describes violence as a crisis in human interactions and parties need help in overcoming this crisis and restoring constructive interventions.

The main objective of the training:

  • People to understand transformative conflict theory
  • Be familiar with the concept of empowerment and recognition
  • Understand the purpose of third party intervention in the transformative framework
  • Understanding the role a mediator employs to support party empowerment and inter party recognition
  • Be able to engage in the basic practices of transformative mediator

Why choose transformative mediation with its theory of conflict?

  • Human beings are believed to be inherently social or connected beings, motivated by a moral impulse to act with both strength and compassion, to be neither victim or victimizer, to interact humanely with each other in all their relation including conflict.
  • Human beings have inherent capacities for both self-determined choice and responsiveness to others, even when confronted with adverse circumstances. Thhis enables them to achieve their desire for morally humane conflict interaction.
  • Because what motivates and matters most to us as human beings is morally humane interactions with others, the most salient meaning of conflict is a crisis in human interactions that tends to generate destructive interactions.
  • The most important product of conflict intervention is a change in the quality of the conflict interaction itself from destructive to constructive, negative to positive regardless of the specific substantive outcome.

This training is participatory and a lot of mediation practice is employed to enable participants to have an in-depth understanding of the procedures to be followed. Three core values are insisted in the entire training for a mediator:

  • Attend

The mediator pays close attention to the unfolding conversation, in order to identify opportunities for empowerment and recognition as they may arise

  • Monitor

The mediator thinks before intervening, in order to monitor his or her motivations for intervening and to suppress any urges to be directive

  • Respond

The mediator responds when appropriate, only to support the parties own efforts to make paradigm shift

Some of the key things that participant need to understand during the mediation process are;

  • How to open up the conversation?
  • How do we set ground rules
  • Signing of agreements if any
  • When to use separate meetings
  • When to adjourn the meetings

Observations during the project

  • Culture has an adverse effects on how women participate in community meetings /trainings
  • Most people block the process of mediation with the Bible
  • Levels of illiteracy high in the community hence easily manipulated to start wars
  • Using local facilitators enhances deeper understanding of the concepts

Achievements

  • Participants started their journey of healing
  • Were able to realize they had trauma but on different levels
  • Resilience was seen in some participants
  • There was consistency in participation
  • Co facilitation worked well
  • Bonding between facilitators and participants was well
  • There was follow –ups after session with participants who were traumatized

Challenges

  • Muddy terrain of the region hence not easy to move around
  • Disarmament of weapons not done hence fear of reprisal
  • Some participants used as spies by the gang making it hrad for others to open up for fear of victimization
  • Culture hinders women in community participation

Recommendations

  • Have regular follow ups and listening sessions to avoid relapse of trauma
  • Have facilitator refresher trainings for capacity building
  • Have quarterly gatherings to share challenges
  • Incorporate peace programs with livelihood project to enhance sustainability
  • Network with other peace stake holders for greater coverage

Next plans

  • Have newsletters to share information
  • Scale up to other regions which been adversely affected by violence
  • Have more of follow up sessions with the beneficiary of the program

Testimonies

“I stayed happily in my marriage for 33 years. One evening as I was cleaning my bedroom I found a bottle under the bed. I picked it up and read the label. To my surprise I realized that it contained antiretroviral drugs. I was shocked and tattered completely not knowing what to do. I sat on the bed confused just to be awakened by my husband entering in. Seeing what I was holding in my hand, he snatched it and became furious and chased me away. Luckily my sister came to my rescue. After being given information by a neighbor, she took me for testing and I was found to be HIV positive and was placed on drugs immediately. It took me time to accept the reality and that deteriorated my health. I have been struggling with that condition for the last 13 years and I have never spoken to my husband neither have I forgiven him “ Female HROC participant.

 

“I grew up together with my brothers and sisters and we had a very good relationship. As years went by my brother joined the police force and I remained home doing farming. We helped each other very well. Life started being a challenge at the village and I asked my brother if I could join him at the city to some casual jobs on which he agreed.

“One morning I took a bus and set off to Nairobi. Since it was my first time to the city I had to ask for directions to where my brother was. When I arrived at the police camp, my brother was not there and I was welcomed by a female police who was there. She kept on asking me questions pertaining to our relationship which surprised me.

“He came in 30 minutes later and the lady asked me to wait for him outside. I was shocked when my real brother passed me without even greeting me. At first I thought that he did not recognize me because of the hat I was wearing, but that was not the case. I removed the hat and followed him calling his name and that fell on a deaf ear. I was left wondering what to do next since it was getting late. So I decided to follow him to his house and I forced myself in and sat near the door. He cooked and ate alone without even looking or saying anything to me. After him finishing eating the next thing I saw was him throwing my bag outside and chased me with a gun threating to shoot me. I slept on a curb till morning. To date I still live with bitterness.” Male HROC participant.

 

“I am a pastor and I had known that by virtue of my profession I am the best mediator in any conflict, but today this theory has proved me wrong thanks to the organizers of this forum” Mediation training participant.

 

Comments on the "Tree of Violence."
Comments on the "Tree of Violence."
Crossing the River Exercise for team building.
Crossing the River Exercise for team building.
Small group discussion on Mediation.
Small group discussion on Mediation.
Group discussion on Mediation.
Group discussion on Mediation.
#1--Family of the victims attacked on Mt. Elgon.
#1--Family of the victims attacked on Mt. Elgon.

Picture # 1: Family of the victims attacked on Mt. Elgon. Note the lack of shoes even on the mother and the very basic structure of their small home. In other words this is a poor family as were most of the victims.

Update on the situation on Mt. Elgon: After the gang on Mt. Elgon killed 30 people, raped 42 women and girls, and destroyed substantial property, a reward of one million shillings (US$10,000) was put on the head of the leader of the gang, Timothy Kiptanui Kitai. For details on this please see me previous posting on March 16, http://davidzarembka.com/2018/03/15/491-attacks-on-women-on-mt-elgon-march-16-2018/. Fortunately last Monday, he turned himself in at a police station near Eldoret. His brother who also part of the gang also surrendered to the police. Even though some of the members of the gang are still at large, this should be the end of the gang and its killings, rapes, and destruction on Mt. Elgon that lead to fear and people leaving their homes for security in schools. The damage, both material and psychological, is going to take a long time to recover. While some of the community members who had fled are now returning to their homes, a considerable amount of healing, reconciliation and debriefing needs to occur.

Getry told me, that the womb of the eleven year old girl who had been gang raped was so extensively damaged that it had to be removed. As a result, in a culture where women are expected to have children, she will never become a biological mother. As Getry said, “This is an issue she is going to have to deal with the rest of her life.”

Report on HROC workshop with rape survivors:

Picture #2: A participant with disability who escaped the hands of the gang in TCSC’s basic HROC workshop.

My husband was killed by the armed gang. From what I was told, he was suspected to be a government informer. Two men pulled me from the kitchen. They threatened to throw me in a pit latrine if I screamed. One raped me with protection; another did not use any protection. Notwithstanding my pain, my husband’s family members have excommunicated me with my three children. I can’t afford basic needs. Because of stigma I have had to change the school my kids attended. It’s so hurting because the sole breadwinner was killed. Tell my story to shame and name them. Help me to meet Mavis; I want to tell her “thank you” for supporting this training. Rape survivor participant at HROC basic workshop.

To make a tax deductible (US) or gift aid eligible (UK) donation through GlobalGiving for TCSC to continue its recovery program on Mt. Elgon, go to http://goto.gg/32883

TCSC conducted one three-day Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities basic workshop with three female facilitators for 21 survivors of rape. As Getry reported the workshop was very emotional. Fortunately a trained counselor attended the workshop to individually counsel any woman who needed and wanted help.

Training for local male leaders:

Picture # 3: HROC training with Nyumba Kumi [ten households] leaders that introduced one whistle in every household.

A second workshop was held with twenty-three male leaders from six villages. Many of these were nyumba kumi [ten household] leaders. This is a program in Kenya where ten households in a community come together to chose one person to be the leader in these ten households. The government had put a three-month night curfew from 6 pm to 6 am on the community. This caused considerable inconvence since no one could go out at night even into their own farm. If a woman was giving birth at night, she was unable to be taken to the clinic for birth on the motorcycle “ambulance” system that the Mt. Elgon Peace Centre has set up. By the end of the workshop, the leaders vowed to remain vigilant, use the TCSC Call-In Centre to text messages for early warning, and initiate a one whistle per household to be blown in case of any dangerous night activity.

One issue that was pending was if the former Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) which had terrorized the Mt. Elgon community from 2006 to 2008 was regrouping. Since TCSC had done a number of workshops with reformed SLDF members, one of the HROC facilitators visited one of these members who said,

 Seven of us [former SLDF members] met to mourn one of our members who was killed in the Saria village in Chepyuk in an attack that left six people dead. If we were still in SLDF we could have revenged, but the training that we got from HROC has help us transform. It’s until all those who were previously involved in SLDF activities are trained in peacemaking will violence on the mountain subside.

The way forward:

In order to restore this wounded community on Mt. Elgon, a tremendous amount of trauma healing, both at the individual and community level, needs to occur. While TCSC has begun work with the women who were raped, this work is only the initial healing that these women and girls need to go through. TCSC and the people on Mt. Elgon would appreciate your support.

#2--A participant with disability.
#2--A participant with disability.
#3--HROC training with 10 household leaders.
#3--HROC training with 10 household leaders.

We succeeded in the GlobalGiving's Accelerator Campaign so that we will become a partnering organization with the ability to post Transforming Community for Social Change projects on their fundraising board. There were 62 people who donated a total of $5089. Thanks so much for this team effort. This was quite an accomplishment. There were 577 organizations in the Accelerator Campaign and only 81 or 14% were able to receive at least $5,000 from 40 donors. We therefore did quite well in this challenge.

The basic concept of crowdfunding is that people will approach their family, friends, and others about the peace and reconciliation work we are doing in western Kenyai. We had one person who told me she made a donation and then took the campaign to her Quaker Meeting and got three more people to donate. This is how it works, how we get a "crowd."

By June 10 we are required to send you a report on how we have spent the funds which you donated.

One of the advantages of being a partner with GlobalGiving is that they have special fundraising days for bonueses and matching grants. The next one is coming up next week from Monday through Friday, Apirl 9 to 13. GlobalGiving is half matching the first $100,000 in small donations of up to $50. So if a person donates $50, GlobalGiving will match this with $25 for a total of $75. Since the match will end when the funds are depleated, it is better if people donate as early as possible during the week. Please tell others you know about this matching grant. I have a put a goal of $1000 of donations with $500 of match.

For those of you, who are not on my Reports from Kenya weekly blog about our peace programs in East Africa, current political analysis, and comments on East African culture, can send me an email at davidzarembka@gmail.com and I can add you to the list to receive the reports.

Again thanks for the teamwork.

 

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Project Leader:
David Zarembka
Kakamega, Kenya

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