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AGLI Supported Quaker Peacemaking - Kenya
David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator

AGLI introduced AVP to Kenya in 2003, both in Nairobi and western Kenya. At that point, Kenyan Quakers were not particularly interested in learning about AVP because many, like most Kenyans, thought Kenya was a peaceful country different from many of its neighbors.

Nonetheless, with the help of a number of lead American AVP facilitators, AVP was successfully introduced in the country. In 2007, AGLI did a “teaser” HROC workshop to see if Kenyans would be interested for AGLI to bring the program from Rwanda and Burundi. The answer was in the affirmative and AGLI planned for the initial workshops in January 2008. Alas, the 2008 post-election violence interfered and it wasn’t until the summer that the first HROC training was held.
During 2008, through a local non-profit organization, Friends for Peace and Community Development, AGLI supported 151 AVP workshops for 3400 mostly youth participants, a two-week HROC facilitator training and 14 basic HROC workshops for 362 participants, and 58 one-day listening sessions for 1216 participants including 43 listening sessions with the US Center for Disease Control staff in Kisumu.

By this time, Kenyan Quakers had formed Friends Church Peace Teams (FCPT) and became very interested in AVP, HROC, and other peacemaking activities. AGLI worked with them in hard-hit Turbo Division near where I live. After FCPT initially provided some humanitarian relief to those missed by the Red Cross, peace teams from FCPT did listening sessions with both sides in the conflict, escorted the internally displaced persons when they returned to their homes, and later did a survey which indicated that, while calm had returned, both sides were fearful of renewed violence.

Other groups including Change Agents for Peace, International, in Nairobi (a program mostly supported by Norwegian Quakers), the Uzima (Wellness) Foundation founded to promote healthy living among youth, Friends Theological Seminary, and some Quaker churches were also very involved in peacemaking work in Nairobi and western Kenya. For the December 27, 2007 election and the August 14, 2010 referendum on the Kenyan constitution, all Quaker groups joined together in the Quaker Peace Network to do election observing.

It is important that Quakers involve themselves in the prevention of election violence in the next Kenyan election in 2012. Consequently, in 2010 FCPT formed the Turbo Division Interfaith Peace Task Force (TDIPTF) in the area where they had done their work in 2008. In order to increase the visibility of peacemaking work, FCPT and FDIPTF organized a peace parades and celebrations in Turbo Division on World Peace Day. September 21, in both 2010 and 2011
Starting in 2011, AGLI has supported two programs in western Kenya. The first is a major AVP project with youth from Turbo Division. Six youth (meaning people under 35 years of age) in each of the seven locations of Turbo Division have been trained as AVP facilitators. They, in turn, with the help of a lead AVP facilitator, have conducted four basic AVP workshops in each location. These were so successfully received that in six of the seven locations, the youth AVP facilitators have organized what they have called “voluntary workshops” where the participants and well-wishers supply the food, venue, and facilitator accommodations so that a three-day workshop for twenty to thirty youth was costing less than $50. To date over sixty AVP workshops for more than 1600 youth in this division have been completed.

As the next election nears, these AVP youth facilitators will develop a voter sensitization seminar which they will conduct with other youth in their location. Twenty youth in each location will be trained as citizen reporters who will observe the whole election cycle from the enrollment of voters, the campaign period, election-day itself, and the post-election period. They will send text messages about events in their community to a Call-In Center supported by a new cyber-program called FrontlineSMS.

AGLI’s other project is to conduct HROC workshops on the slopes of Mt. Elgon where a land dispute between two clans of the Sabaot led to the death of up to 600 people and the displacement of more than 100,000 people from 2006 to 2008. With the up-coming election, tensions in the area hit by this violence are rising again. The HROC program is healing the personal wounds from this violence and rebuilding the relationships between the groups that were involved in this violence.

AGLI is one of a number of local and international organizations doing peacemaking in Kenya. Others include Change Agents for Peace, International, AVP Trust, Friends for Peace and Community Development, Friends Theological College, Quaker Peace Network, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, and Friends United Meeting. There is more than enough for these organizations to do as the challenge is immense.