Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya

by Transforming Community for Social Change Vetted since 2018 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya
2 international participants with local community
2 international participants with local community



Transforming Community for Social Change raised sufficient funds to send Janet and Bernard to this HROC International Training in Musanze, Rwanda.

In August 9th 2011, the first HROC IT was born and held in Burundi. The training brought 20 participants from different countries around the world. In the last eight years HROC IT has conducted 14 international trainings that have attracted many individuals, groups, local NGOs and international partners who have contributed to the growth of training facilitators in the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities program. This was developed in Rwanda and Burundi for psycho-social healing of individuals and society after deadly conflict. The impact and success stories from USA, Latin America, United Kingdom, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somali, Nigeria and Central Republic Africa has transformed this program and enabled it to run two international trainings every year.

This year’s first training was held in Rwanda, Musanze District, Chimonyi Sector at our HROC Peace Center. We had 9 participants, three men and six women, 2 from Kenya, 1 from England and 6 from Rwanda.  The training was scheduled for three weeks and carefully designed;

  • To prepare new facilitators to facilitated a basic HROC workshop,
  • To deepen participants understanding of trauma, trauma recovery, listening, and the role of trauma in reconciliation.
  • To develop and practice basic facilitation skills.

The international participants were given opportunity to attend a three days basic HROC workshop with other local community members, mostly survivors and perpetrators of genocide. After intensive training at the HROC Center, new HROC facilitators were given the opportunity to apprentice in three different communities.The first training was held at Evangelical Friends church in Musanze.  Most of the participants were windows above 50 years old whose husbands died during the genocide. The second workshop was held at Kiningi sector and the participants were mainly women who have experience gender based violence -- most of them were married and between 25-45 years old. The third workshop was held at the HROC center and all the participants were single unmarried mothers with children between the age of 16 -35 years

The cry in one of our apprentice training of single mothers of   “why me?” reflects the longing to find reason and meaning in difficult life events. Yet continually asking these often unanswerable questions kept most of girls in the training stuck. Together with suppressed fear, these questions provoke the great anger at everything and everyone associated with the perpetrator. To restore the ability to think rationally, the question needs to be reframed to why them? Why did they do it and why did they do it to me? This opens the way to search for root causes and to acknowledge that the other, the enemy, also has a story.  We learnt that today’s aggressors are often yesterday’s victims.

“My father was a genocide perpetrator, I am told he killed many people before I was born; today he is serving a 20 year prison sentence. I later learnt that he also killed all the family members of a Tutsi family except a son who survived. This son deliberately got to know me and forced me to live with him for nine months. I did not know who he was. When i got pregnant, he refused to take any responsibility for the baby, saying ‘go and eat your baby the way your father ate all my family members’. This left me in despair and shock. The man left me. I was so traumatized and was asking myself why should I pay for my father’s mistake? I was very sick and spent the last three in the hospital. My mother also rejected me but provided me with a house where i stayed alone with my baby. In this training I have learnt that my traumatic experienced had destroyed me. I have learnt that everyone can find a friend as now I know there are friends who can help, I feel safe in this group of girls.” 

Use of English and Kinyarwanda.
Use of English and Kinyarwanda.
Basic apprentice workshop with single mothers.
Basic apprentice workshop with single mothers.
I4th International HROC Training participants.
I4th International HROC Training participants.
Visit to the memorial site in Gisenyi.
Visit to the memorial site in Gisenyi.
Motorcycles at the dialogue session.
Motorcycles at the dialogue session.

The bodaboda (motorcycle taxis) industry has grown immensely since its inception in 2003. The industry has seen many youth engaged in the business. From the start of the business, the government did not have clear regulations to guide the industry. As a result the riders were associated with all sorts of unruly behavior and accidents. Thirty percent of all accidents recorded are associated with the industry leading to the introduction of a special ward in government hospitals for the motorbike related accidents. [Note from Dave Z: One evening when I was at Lumakanda hospital with one of the sick children, a passanger who was in a motorcycle accident in Kipkarren River was brought in with one leg severed at the knee. The driver was then brought in bleeding profusely.]

To tame this menace of bodaboda chaos, the government introduced stringent laws commonly known as “Michuki laws” named after the minister who developed the laws. The bodaboda drivers were required to have:

  • Protective gears (helmet)
  • Driving license
  • Insurance
  • Reflecting jackets
  • Carry only one passenger

These rules have now started being enforced again by the police. This caught the bodaboda drivers unprepared and, since they were many in number, they started engaging in battles with the police.

On Mt. Elgon the riders ganged up and roughed up the policemen in a very tough battle. One of the officers broke his leg and a number of causalities taken to Bungoma hospital.

Transforming community for social change intervened by conducting a dialogue between the operators and the police. A total of one hundred and thirty people attended the meeting at the peace centre.

Resolutions accepted at the meeting included

  • Give the operators adequate time to acquire the documents
  • Policemen to be friendly in handling the bodaboda drivers as a traffic offence is not criminal offence
  • Use the boda boda drivers to enhance security
  • Engage other boda boda drivers across Bungoma county on such forums
  • Bodaboda drivers to be organized into Saccos (cooperative societies) to avoid being mistaken for criminals

This is an example of TCSC’s peacemaking work in action.

Note: On December 24 at the Mt. Elgon Peace Center, Transforming Community for Social Change plans a Christmas Party for 600 or more children. We will report on this activity after Christmas.

The man with a cane was hurt during the skirmishes
The man with a cane was hurt during the skirmishes
Role play at workshop in Kakuma Refugee Camp.
Role play at workshop in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

Brief  Report on Accomplishments in 2017/2018 and Planned Activities for 2019


Giving Tuesday is tomorrow and Transforming Community for Social Change hopes that you can make a donation on that day. GlobalGiving will give a 12% to 15% bonus for donations made on Giving Tuesday that are made during that day Eastern Standard Time in the US. Recurring donations will be matched up to $200 after the fourth payment.

For Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC), click on

      To support Peacemaking with Samburu Warriors, click on

      To support Christmas Celebration for 600 Kids, click on

      To donate to TCSC by M-pesa go to Pay Bill: 891300, Account: GG31755

Activities for 2017/2018:

This year Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC) and its local partners have been working in Kenya to promote a culture of peace and restoration of justice through advocacy, economic empowerment, and community development. After the last elections in 2017, Kenya teetered on the brink of civil war; enraged citizens were manipulated by their political leaders to exact revenge for a stolen election.

TCSC was instrumental working with our over 1000 grassroots citizen reporters, our program facilitators, and resource persons to coordinate Civic Education and open Peace Forums for inter-ethnic groups in Western Kenya and Mt Elgon. This offered an integrated and focused election violence prevention project that built on the foundations we had laid in the communities that were considered flash points. With our track record and strong links to mobilized grassroot groups, those involved in peace initiatives and TSCS-trained Resource People were ideally located to promote a collective understanding of and investment in a free and fair election process that crossed ethnic, religious, and party lines.  

Before the 2017 election TCSC conducted refresher trainings with our local Resource People so that they could be community trainers in the electoral process, citizen reporting, and election observation. TCSC also developed watch-dog groups to monitor political developments, report on hate speech, and hold political aspirants and community leaders accountable. In order to build the foundation of community relationships and basic knowledge needed for these watch-dog groups, TCSC managed to hold inter-ethnic, inter-faith and inter-party community forums, civic education workshops, and voter sensitization sessions and as well as monitorthe election process itself.

Since December 2013 when tribal violence between the Dinka and Nuer in South Sudan broke out, tens of thousands of South Sudanese have swelled the numbers in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Moreover they have brought the South Sudanese conflict into the camp and the Dinka and Nuer have had deadly clashes in the refugee camp itself. Transforming Community for Social Change with support from donations given through GlobalGiving conducted Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities workshops in Kakuma Refugee Camp. The purposes were

  • To help them address and deal with their trauma from violence and domestic abuse from the struggling nature of their lives in the camp,
  • To build confidentiality and resilience because people living in the camp are still afraid of their neighbours because of stereotypes.
  • To build resilience through the process of healing from trauma.

TCSC lead facilitators also introduce AVP and HROC in Kitale, Kenya, mentored apprentice HROC facilitators in Rumbek, South Sudan, and Gulu, Kampala and northwest Uganda, and trained HROC facilitators in Musanze, Rwanda.

Activities for 2019:

In our new year 2019 TCSC intends

  • To train communities in peace programmes such as Alternative to Violence, Mediation, Trauma Healing, and Active Non-Violence on Mt Elgon, the Kakuma Refugee Camp and elsewhere as needed.
  • To help women and youth in Kakuma Refugee camp start economic empowerment projects to promote self reliance.
  • To have advocacy programmes towards justice and civic education in Western Kenya.
  • To sensitize the communities on gender equality to promote equity in development.
  • To rise and mobilize funds to support the Mt Elgon Peace Centre including the building of a residential building at the Centre.
  • To continue to help train people in both Kenya and other countries in AVP, HROC, mediation, active non-violence, and other peacemaking programs.
  • To hold on December 24 a Christmas Celebration for 600 Kids on Mt Elgon.
  • To re-engage with the traditional warriors in Samburu to promote peaceful coexistence.

We have a goal of raising $5,000 on Giving Tuesday to continue our peacemaking activities during 2019. We have attached a flier for you to foward to those whom you think might be interested in the work of Transforming Community for Social Change's peacemaking work.

We appreciate you help.

Getry Agizah, Peter Serete, Ezra, Kigondu, and David Zarembka



Both victims and perpetrators of violence experience trauma. Kitale Community Advancement Programme (KAP) has been doing work with victims of AIDS and violence. They have trained counselors who have been helping victims of this deadly pandemic and the violence in parts of Mt. Elgon and the slums of Kitale municipality. .KAP consulted TCSC to further their  knowledge on matters of trauma and trauma healing . They did a basic training in which some of KAP’s staff and its volunteers participated.

The second training which was a six day training of Healing Companion which was done from the 8th October 2018. The objectives of the training were

  • To help the staff and volunteers to become healing companions to help others within their community who have experienced violence
  • To teach people to help others to express their emotions
  • To teach and practice deep listening skills
  • To offer support to people on their journey of healing
  • To identify the process of recovery from trauma

The training started with a follow up of the basic training. The first activity was using a healing scale which indicated that most of them had made a tremendous step since the basic training. A healing companion can’t heal others when he or she is still wounded.

Lessons learnt

  • There are a lot of similarities between counseling and healing companions such as focus on deep
  • Healing companions have their own issues too hence the need to work on them
  • A lot of vices happen in the slum areas which go unnoticed
  • Land has been a major cause of violence in eastern Mt. Elgon 
  • There is passion among the participants to be healing companions
  • Trauma is dynamic depending upon the environment, hence there are different ways of recovery
  • There is a lot of resilience in the community


  • Participants need a three day training of trainers to improve facilitation
  • Apprenticeship for the facilitataors  to be able to handle a HROC workshop
  • Follow up days are needed to trace recovery
  • Quarterly meetings of healing companions to share progress, challenges and experiences
  • Need to be trained on other peace building programs to be able to handle emerging conflicts
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


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


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.


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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


“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.

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Project Leader:
David Zarembka
Kakamega, Kenya
$14,950 raised of $18,000 goal
261 donations
$3,050 to go
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