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Turning the Tide
David Zarembka, AGLI Coordinator

In Kenya, youth usually respond to an injustice by rioting and violence, negating the goals of their complaints. One example is a school not having electricity at night for the students to study so they demonstrate on the road, overturning vehicles, and then clashing with the police. They need the lessons of non-violent direct action as a better means for redressing problems and improving Kenyan society. This type of program would directly complement the AVP, HROC, and mediation work that AGLI was already doing.

John McKendy from Canada was an AGLI work camper at the Kamenge Clinic in Burundi for two summers. He was a professor of peace studies at the University of New Brunswick. AGLI had arranged for him to come to Kenya during his sabbatical year to develop a non-violent direct action program. Unfortunately two months before he arrived, he was killed by his son-in-law as he was trying to protect his daughter from abuse. What a tragedy!

Then Laura Shipler Chico, a former AGLI extended service volunteer in Rwanda and now Programme Manager for Peacebuilding in East Africa at Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) in London, suggested that QPSW had a non-violent direct action program called Turning the Tide (TTT). TTT seeks “--to improve people’s knowledge about nonviolence and their ability to use the tools and techniques it offers to take practical, effective steps towards that goal of a just and peaceful world.”

After an initial TTT workshop, QPSW decided to introduce the program in both Nairobi and western Kenya. This began in 2010 with a two-week training, practical application of the lessons learned, and follow up seminars to analyze the results. To effectively implement the program at the grassroots, Bernard Agona was appointed Field Coordinator in western Kenya and Betty Atieno as the Field Coordinator for Nairobi. Bernard Agona’s report, Nonviolent Protest Turns the Tide for Kenyan Students, on one successful implementation of TTT can be found by clicking here.

I myself heard of one action where TTT had trained the motorcycle taxi drivers in a community. Usually when they would have a complaint they would march to the official’s office, shout, wave branches, make a lot of noise, and disburse, having let off steam but with no appreciable results. After the TTT training, the group of motorcycle taxi drivers decided to send a small delegation with their written demands such as building shelters in town for the taxis and their customers and presented the mayor of the town with their concerns. The official involved was so surprised at this non-violent conduct that he immediately agreed.

Turning the Tide in Kenya is now capable of conducing training sessions for those who want to launch a successful campaign of nonviolent direct action. In 2012, they are planning a third group in the northern Rift Valley where violence is pervasive. While AGLI has not needed to contribute any funds or personnel to this program, it has contributed emotional and enthusiastic support for TTT.