Responding to Deadly Conflicts in Western Kenya

by Transforming Community for Social Change
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
Participants in a trauma healing workshop.
Participants in a trauma healing workshop.

The world in general has been affected by violence, natural disasters and different other awful things that happen to people in their lives. Giving examples among the many that exist, COVID-19 pandemic continuing to surge in many countries, Kenya is getting into post Covid-19 pandemic period and new words have been added to the question ‘’when you hear the word trauma what comes to your mind?’’, this include corona, curfew, lockdown, stay at home and quarantine. In this new words many people have committed suicide, some gone into depression because of loss of livelihood, starvation and begging for food, families have separated, early pregnancy among school going children and violence against among women and children are the consequences of the new words.


The 3 basic Healing and Rebuilding our Community workshops we have conducted during month of December has help to build community capacity to respond to wide-spread trauma and to strengthen resilience during this difficult time of this pandemic.


“I have been stressed for the last eight months, the anxiety and pressure that I have experience since Covid-19 was reported was overwhelming. The virus confronted me with demands that I was not able to face as a woman and widow. When we were starving I remember you brought us food, Then later you invited us for a one day listening session and you gave us chance to share our challenges how we can manage our own lives during the pandemic. Today I am happy you have trained me on trauma, the training has given me inner strength”


HROC will always talk about difficult issues, we always try to create safe space for everyone because most of the participant may not be knowing each other, most of them come from different places with different experiences. We carefully welcome all emotions from our participants that include fear guilt, grief, panic, anxiety, irritability, depression and intense anger.


“I have developed intense anger and uncertainty of when things will get back to normal. This has been my struggle, intrusive images of how Covid-19 victims were buried in white bags with men in white gears, seeing many people die in other countries, still linger in my mind, am afraid and I hope this training will help me overcome”


Small groups always give in-depth conversation on topic of discussion, partcipants answering the question

“What was the experience like for you to talk about the consequences of trauma?”


“As women of Mt Elgon, we have benefited from all the programs TCSC has offere which include AVP, HROC,  Listening session, birth companions, mediation and women empowerment. Uou have been very supportive and companion to us. In our struggle you have helped us heal from trauma. We say thank you. Please share our stories with people that have support your programs. Wish them happy new year on our behalf”

 
Sometimes it is easy for women who share the same pain to understand each other, with one of our lead facilitator Hellen, sharing is part of healing. A group of women who didn’t what to share in a big circle were given to share amongst “I feel better than the way I came”


Moving forward TCSC will be conducting internal impact assessment evaluation on its programs stating next month


Date Activity             Male       Female      PLW    Facilitators   Total
3-5/12/2020 HROC     18                                            3             21
7-9/12/2020 HROC       4            20             1              3             25
10-12/12/2020 HROC    3           18              2              3             26


Update
Starting this January TCSC will be moving to its new office that is located on Kakamega -Webuye road, The office will help facilitate administrative responsibility for our organization as requested my Non-governmental Organization board due to difficulty accessing the Mt. Elgon Peace Centre. However the government in currently working on the road infrastructure.


Small group discussion in HROC workshop.
Small group discussion in HROC workshop.
Small group discussion in HROC workshop.
Small group discussion in HROC workshop.
The ongoing renovation of our new TCSC office .
The ongoing renovation of our new TCSC office .
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Group photo after HROC workshop.
Group photo after HROC workshop.

I was a vigallante under the government with the directive to kill any raider or bandit and honestly I killed ruthlessly in the name of bringing peace. Little did I know that we can achieve that coperation in a small circle like this. Participant in cross-border listening session.

HROC Report

The Covid-19 pandemic has wrecked unprecedented havoc on children, teenagers, families, schools and community in and around Transnzoia County specifically in Kitale town, disrupting vital services and put many lives at risk. Since March attempts to avert this global pandemic have seen closure of most schools, affecting so many children and livelihoods of teachers who were employed by the school management.

For the most vulnerable children, especially girls, accessing basic needs has been a challenge forcing them to engage in unwanted behaviours to meet their needs. The pandemic has caused additional, unanticipated disruption and the likelihood of the vulnerable girls being unable to meet their life goals

The vulnerability that is known to increase due to the closure of schools in time of crisis and risks is “teenage pregnancy”. School closure during crisis can result in girls spending more time with men and boys than they would were they in school, leading to greater likelihood of engagement in risky sexual behaviours and increased risk of sexual violence and exploitation.

In as much as currently we blame Covid-19 for the increased cases of the teenage pregnancy; it can further be linked to lack of sexual and reproductive health education, child marriages, substance abuse, increased poverty and insecurity which is predominant in Trans Nzoia. Complication from teenage pregnancy account for more cases of death of young girls in Trans Nzoia. The situation that has put the leadership of the community in a dilemma wondering what to do.

Since March more than 10 deaths have been recorded in the area as a result of young girls wanting to conduct back alley abortion which is either aided by their parents or a close relative. Due to not believing that children are taking a wrong direction, two parents succumbed because of the death of their young one.

The training brought about so many lessons which included:

  • Through trust walk participants acknowledged the importance of a shoulder to lean in times of distress
  • We see people suffer but we couldn’t identify that it was traumatic stress
  • Trauma is an accompaniment of covid if not shared it leads to quick death
  • People living in suburb’s are prone and at risk of traumatizing events
  • There is dire to be close to our children during this pandemic
  • Prompt more sharing from our teenagers

Recommendations

  • Have regular follow ups to people who are more traumatized
  • Partner with other organization to enhance referrals
  • Develop and train more healing companion in the region

Testimonies

it was on June the second day of the week, memories are still fresh in my mind. I was preparing lunch for my family and children were busy playing at the main house, while others were glued to their phones. Then my younger daughter came to me telling me that Joyce, my form 2 girl, was playing a bad game at her bedroom. I assumed and told her to go and tell to stop the game. She went and again after five minutes she came back again and told me the same story. This time I decided to go with her to Joyce's room. Friends, what I found was shocking. Joyce was hanging from the ceiling, at first I could not believe it was true but from a closer look i saw her tongue out, what transpired next I don’t know because I found myself at Kitale district hospital. I was there for two days in a comma. I buried my daughter because she refused to share her problems with me and I was also not available to her. I am in a lot of pain and when I see parents talk of teenage pregnancy I see the letter my daughter left behind informing me of her pregnancy and that she didn’t want to be a shame to the family. I am still mourning my beloved daughter and kindly I welcome you to my house to come and help me mourn and talk to my kids.

AVP Report

Venue:cheptonon in Suam, Mt Elgon

Suam isoin the boader of Uganda and kKnya. They border the hostile pastorlist comunities of Pokots from Kenya and Sebei from Uganda. The cross boarder conflicts between the warring communities have led to loss of many lives and displacements of  hundreds of people.The old, women ,and children seem to bear the brunt of this socioecomical and politically instigated forms of violence. Violation of fundamental rights of women and children are widespread in times of conflict. This include crimes like murder, rape, torture, mistreatment and neglect. Women are left in situation where they can hardly make ends meet. With little or no resource at their disposal eventually leads to unfaithfulness to look for the basics from the haves.The communities live in constant fear of attacks from bandits and raiders. The often wanton destruction of life and property and the use of terror and threats in all its manifestation tend to undermine peoples value, dignity, and hermony .

When security forces fail to net bandits and raiders in their operation, they often vent their anger on the civilian population,who they accuse of colluding and harbouring the bandits. As a punishment they always confiscate their cattle to put pressure on the locals to return the stolen cattle. And on the other hand the bandits may also heavily punish some mebers of the community who are suspected to be working with the government. The locals therefore finds themselves in jeopardy or unsure on how to balance between the two forces. It's such scenarios that often lead to victims running and escaping for safety. What has real aided this henious act of banditry and raids is the inflitration of small and light arms in the region from neighbouring countries.

The government has tried several measures to end this unending conflict at the boaders which include

  • Police post and military camps in the region
  • Political approach
  • Having homeguards and vigilante groups
  • Disarment programs

But with all this the conflict continued. Even the police posts were being raided. After several listenning sessions with the so called perpetrators, we realized that the gap in all this measures was lack of :

  • Addressing attitudes
  • Perceptions
  • Retrogresive culture
  • Behaviour change

This informed the AVP tranings contacted in the community to address the gaps.

Lessons learned from the training

  1. Timeliness and effective response is key and this can be achieved through identfying hotspots.
  2. Identify pattens and trends of the conflict for proper intervention planning.
  3. Use the locals who understand the history of the place to do further tranings in their dialect. This will ensure sustainability and ownership of the process.
  4. Coflicts in this region are dynamic, interlinked  and its this relationship that determines the nature of conflict  .
  5. Exclusion of a segment of the community from decision making is a recipe for prolonged conflict
  6. Cordination and patnership is paramount in achieving desired outcomes
  7. The locals want to be treated with love and repect

Reccomendations

a)      Have cross boader dialogues between the communitie living there.

b)      Let women also participate in this forum as they also play key role in instigating violence.

c)      Increase political wing in the campaign against ending violence in the region by invting them in the trainings.

d)      Have the trainings even in schools to transform the violent nature at a tender age.

e)      Have regular follw-ups for encourgement.

Challenges encountred

  • Changing the narrative of gun ownership is tricky since they find value in them.
  • Due to their living nature most of them haven't gone to school hence communication is hampered.
  • Fear and uncertainity is still high hinderig concetration during training.
  • The hilly terain of the region makes participants to come in the training a bit late and tired .
  • Due to the sensitivity in the group partcitipants didn’t want their pictures taken.

Testimonies

I am gratefull today because all along I knew this other tribes as people who came to snatch our land but I have realized through this training we can build a new society and stop fighting each other.

 

Teenagers in small group sharing challenges.
Teenagers in small group sharing challenges.
Young adults in the trainings.
Young adults in the trainings.
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Lead facilitator addresses teenagers on Mt Elgon.
Lead facilitator addresses teenagers on Mt Elgon.

Listening Sessions

Listening sessions are a tool that was develop after the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007. The tool is designed to facilitate listening sessions with empathy exercises to enlarge deeper understanding of an issue or problem of others and give them help in solving them. It gives effective listening skills and help participants to open up from their frozen pain and past. Iit invites them to take an active part in the growth process and gives the participants permission to admit a need for help and to seek it appropriate.  It is from this session that facilitator help the participant to get help through our programs with include Alternatives to Violence, Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities, Mediation, Counselling and many others.

In the sessions we discovered that violence against women amidst this Covid-19 pandemic has been a violation of women’s human rights. Many forms of violence against women have been perpetrated by close family members and the community at large. Since the outbreak of Covid-19 in early March, gender based violence has created many potential negative health consequences for women and their children.  Violence against women in Mt Elgon has resulted in injuries and serious physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems, including sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unplanned pregnancies. In extreme cases, violence against women has resulted in death. Restricted movement and social isolation measures have led to an exponential increase in GBV. Many women are in "lockdown" at home with the abusers while being cut off from normal social support services.

On Mt Elgon there has been a rampant cases of GBV which has been reported and many which remain confined at the mercy elders hence denying victim’s access to justice. A case of women being stabbed to death over a missing meal has been witnessed. Young and innocent girls are being waylaid on their way back from manual job is on the increase. In Chepyuk location which borders Mt. Elgon forest women who are on the run because sour marriages have increased. All this has raised alarm and not much is being done. Trauma has engulfed the residents of the area due to this sharp increase in GBV cases.

We managed to do 5 listening sessions with women and young girls who have experienced violence especially during the difficult times of Covid-19. From these sessions, we were able to identify women who have experienced traumatic experiences and have obtained psychosocial help for them. We have provided safe spaces for women and children to share. We have held perpetrators accountable with the use of police and local administration. Also for some sensitive cases we helped provide a platform for referrals for medication and professional counseling.

During the training we had heavy rains and the roads were impassable. However the team was forced to walk for a long distance because motorbikes could not be used.

As we finalize the listening sessions the country was hit by the second wave of infections that forced us to embark on government health protocols thus reducing our public gatherings.

Listen session with women and girls.
Listen session with women and girls.
The most affected group on Mt. Elgon were women.
The most affected group on Mt. Elgon were women.
Involving government officials in tackling GBV.
Involving government officials in tackling GBV.
Road conditions going to listening session.
Road conditions going to listening session.
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67 year old woman receiving relief.
67 year old woman receiving relief.

When the government announced the first case of Corona virus in the country, we all went into panic and anxiety, everything started to shut down slowly. The government directive and measures forced us to close all our programs considering the fact that in most of our peace program we would bring more than twenty participants in training. As an organization we had less experience on strategies to cope with the crisis. Through consultative meetings with other stakeholders and our partners through Zoom and Skype calls, we started our intervention.

We started educating and encouraging communities around us to adhere to Government measures of washing hands with water and soap/using sanitizers, keeping social distance, wearing masks and staying at home. It was not easy to learn this new normal. Everyday we had new infections, new deaths from COVI19 virus and other related illness. All this measures came with a price tag on it; Most of communities in Mt. Elgon could not access clean sufficient water leave alone affording soap. The cost of masks was equivalent to a meal that would feed a household, staying at home for low income earners who live below the poverty line would not only die from Covid19 but hunger due to lack of food.

AGLI coordinator David Bucura in a consultative Skype meeting with country coordinators of partner organizations in Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi, agreed in the meeting that there was a need for food support that include dry cereals of maize, beans, rice, green grams, maize flour. In addition we had cooking oil and soap  to the vulnerable members of community this included households of people living with disability, elderly and those who in poverty. The coordinator shared the same with AGLI working group and funding was released to buy food. Initially we had targeted 25 households of about 8 family members each that could give us around 200 beneficiaries both Quakers and non-Quaker., We managed to reached 300 families in 36 households, On 4th of July we had reached hundreds of vulnerable groups such as unemployed youth, the elderly, women and children from low-income households and people living with disability, who were at higher risk of food scarcity and malnutrition.

Distributing food supply is one of the most challenging activities. Despite the organization having Identified the most vulnerable beneficiary, other community members who could afford also wanted a share of the supply. During distribution we met other challenges of girls in need of sanitary pads, psychosocial support and guiding and counseling.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the ongoing and planned peace processes and trainings. It is becoming increasingly difficult to facilitate intra and interethnic dialogues. We cannot travel to conflict affected areas to conduct dialogue with parties in dispute. As result there are increased cases of intra and inter-ethnic conflicts in traditional conflict prone areas.

Another challenge being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic is stigma and stereotyping against infected and affected people as well as social animosity based on mis-conception on the virus.

Due to the prolonged home stays by people who would otherwise be away from home, there is the risk of increased family feuds such as gender-based violence including sexual violence, divorce and separation among couples, high levels of stress and emotional instability, among others, especially in poor households.

Following the pandemic there has been increase in anxiety, stress, panic attacks and mental illness. These should be major healthcare concerns during and after Covid-19 era.

Moving forward, we have great opportunity to start addressing trauma related issues now that churches have been opened, the government can allow 100 people in church congregation.

Address the issue of early pregnancy in Mt. Elgon; create avenues to get funding for sanitary towel.

Organize stakeholder meeting with local administration and the teenagers to take about challenges putting in mind schools will not open until next year, 2021,

Due to economic instability in the country, loss of jobs by pandemic, culture shock and trauma around mourning and police brutality during enforcement of curfew laws, there is a high rate of mental disorder that has caused lack of peace among communities which has led to depressions.

“We have never met God, when we meet like this and talk, God is present, am very grateful, I never knew I will get food to eat, when we go to bed you don’t know Gods plan in the morning. Thank you very much; I am happy my family will have something to eat.”

Since the government announced the pandemic, we were left on our own. At my age cannot work anymore, I solemnly depend on neighbors and well-wishers,  already my neighbors are struggling just like me, today I had decided to cook this wild red  pepper vegetables as my meal, Gods works in mysteries ways, am grateful to your organization for reaching to elderly widow like me, God bless you.”

Getry giving relief to member of Malava Meeting.
Getry giving relief to member of Malava Meeting.
TCSC volunteer Christine delivering food.
TCSC volunteer Christine delivering food.
I am inspecting the bags of relief.
I am inspecting the bags of relief.
I am giving relief to one of our beneficiaries.
I am giving relief to one of our beneficiaries.
Getry - listening session with man with disability
Getry - listening session with man with disability
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Trust walk
Trust walk

Healing and Rebuilding our Communities (HROC) International workshop in Rwanda Musanze Feb. 02-22/2020

Facilitators: Serete Peter, Anena Terry and Solange Maniraguha

The first Basic

In all international Healing and rebuilding our community workshops we always give participants an opportunity to attend a basic HROC workshop with local community members to help them have an introductory sense of how things are done in terms of the context and the methodology in delivering a workshop. In three days participants will recognize and understand Trauma, learn skills of dealing with their personal trauma, carefully begin their personal journey of healing, recognize that life continues after traumatic event and help them reconnect with their communities and rebuilt society.

    During the basic workshop participants were drawn from 6 countries, we had 5 from Zimbabwe, 1 from Democratic Republic of Congo, 1 from Nigeria, 6 from Rwandans and 1 from Kenya. The workshop was conducted by three facilitators from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda with the help of a Rwandan translator. 

    Local leader from the office of civil registration in the sector opened the workshop officially and assured both local and international participants of their safety and appreciated the collaboration between HROC Rwanda and the Local administration. “I welcome you all in Rwanda, we were told about your coming, Rwanda is peaceful, we like visitors, you are free to move around and visits beautiful sites here in Musanze, with  thank the organizers for collaborating with local Government, this shows that for us to heal and have peace, we need to work together” Community leaders play an important role in identifying and inviting potential participants to a workshop. The process is done in fairness and balance in the selection process. During the process it is important to ask questions about the person’s symptoms and experience before immediately accepting such a participant, to ensure that the person is stable enough to participate in the workshop. 

Experience and testimonies from the participant varies depending on the depth of understanding and the level of transformation towards healing, three day may not be enough, however the module is  design to help individual on the underlying philosophy that each person and society has the inner capacity to heal and an inherent intuition of how to recover from trauma.

“I appreciate the methodology and how the module has been simplified to deepen our understanding, the meaningful examples were helpful, given my own time to share my traumatic experience was so enriching”

“I have been working with traumatized people in my community, I find it useful especially the support given to me by you, I felt not judged, my opinion was respected, and more importantly I was involved in all process”

“Am Glad I was given time to share my traumatic experience, sometime you feel you are alone, I have decided not to go back home again because I don’t want to meet my neighbor who killed my family members, when I was listening to people share, it gives you courage to share your own pain and find ways of getting help, I need more time and hope I will work on my fears and more importantly I will need help from facilitators”

“Facilitators gave us opportunity to share our thought and insight on our own understanding of trauma”.

The Training of Trainers

After all international participants have attended a basic HROC, they embark on a two weeks long, during this time we manage to prepare new facilitators to facilitate  a basic HROC workshop, deepen their understanding of trauma, trauma recovery, listening and the role of trauma healing in reconciliation.

With mentorship of a lead facilitator the program help to develop and practice basic peer counseling and listening skills, so facilitators are accomplished healing companion in their communities

At the end of two weeks the new HROC facilitators develop and practice basic facilitation skills

In order to push into the intense and difficult journey of trauma recovery and healing, participants, facilitators and healing companions alike must have strategies, rituals and sources of strength that can serve as anchors, for many years in all our international trainings participants have come out with creative ways that keep each person connected to him or herself, to one another and God. Without these, we can lose ourselves in sea of pain and helplessness.

Some faced challenges during this one

We are sharing some of the challenges met during this one training. Some are new, others are not, but just keep coming as challenge.

-Unfinished constructions at the Hroc Center that pushes us to take some of the participants staying at the hotel. This is more challenging, when you ask people to walk after having diner, and it is late in the night.

-Using an apprentice facilitator(s) and don’t pay them anything is not fair. Spending three weeks and going back home with empty pocket… It is really challenging.

Testimonies

  • Eugenia (from Zimbabwe): It is so powerful to have this kind of training. I cant wait to go back to Zim to do some Hroc workshops. It is a based community approach for sure. I have learned so much from you(facilitators), and learned from the approach itself. For us in Zimbabwe, when we do workshops on trauma healing, we train victims themselves, and the perpetrators, or vice versa. Now I see the importance of bringing them together. I appreciate so muc Hroc Philosophy. Very rich and touches everyone in the community. I think we will organize a Hroc training of trainers back home, and have more facilitators, because the work is huge and needed.
  • Mike (from Zimbabwe): Its just too much! Its rich and easy to learn. I normally work with others in a group, but now I see how much this Hroc approach touches the grass roots. Thank you my organization for bringing me to this one. We are still going under political pressure in our country. People are still in the cycle of violence. We have so much to do!
  • James (Nigeria):” Let us not loose hope”. There still time and space for someone to get healed. I was waiting for this one training to happen so that I can attend. I have founded myself to be here because I needed too. My fellow facilitators from Nigeria have interested me when they shared some of the things they have learned from the same kind or training, now I can testify it myself. I am just wondering how we can cooperate with other facilitators from my country as they seem to be away from me. But I still believe we can do something. I myself got helped to go through my personal journey of healing. Thank you so much Hroc.

 Recommendations for way forward

1.HROC IT participants database

2.International follow up activities

3.Being open to some adaptations if there is a need for the country/context

4.HROC facilitators gathering to be organized.

Official opening by local government leader
Official opening by local government leader
Participants during workshop
Participants during workshop
Two participants in small group discussion
Two participants in small group discussion
Practice facilitation
Practice facilitation
Workshop exercise
Workshop exercise
Group photo with certificates
Group photo with certificates
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Project Leader:
David Zarembka
Kakamega, Kenya
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