KENYA: Coast Region Conflicts Threaten Achievement of 'Vision 2030'

Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Coast Week
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

With the emergence of conflicts following the 2007 post election violence, it is unlikely that Kenya will attain the cherished vision 2030.

But with the involvement of women countrywide, cases of insecurity could be minimized as happened in northern Kenya recently, since women understand what peace is all about than men counterparts.

The National Coordinator, National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management Samwel Maina observed that to bring about peaceful co-existence, priority should be given to causes of the conflicts as well as pay attention to solving the conflicts countrywide.

"It is unfortunate that despite spending large sums of money in developing policies, some people are still keen at causing chaos amongst peace loving citizens," Maina said this while addressing a high level conference on women, peace and security in Nairobi.

Finland Ambassador to Kenya Sofie From-Emmesberger called for a solution to the act of lawlessness in the Tana Valley in the coastal region.

"These acts must stop since the sufferers at such conflicts are often women and children," she noted.

"The commission and women of Kenya are gravely concerned with the deaths where women and children are the greatest casualties," National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Winnie Lichuma said.

Lichuma said the Tana River Delta is already a marginalized area with its residents expressing concern that they have been left out of the development agenda.

"The government must act urgently and use all machineries at its disposal to stop this violence immediately," she said.

Lichuma said that in the process of managing the conflict, it is important that women and girls should not suffer sexual violence as witnessed in Mt Elgon in 2006 when security personnel were deployed to bring peace.

"We are concerned that with barely six months to the elections, it is not farfetched that unscrupulous politicians will do anything to retain power," she added.

According to Elizabeth Rehn, a renowned independent expert on peace building and crisis management, there is need to activate the east African regional integration to help manage conflicts in the region.

She said most conflicts in the region are caused by climate change, state actors and politics, issues she noted could be handled well through the regional integration as opposed to one country.

"Women and children suffer during conflicts as they look for water for domestic use as well as livestock to the territories of enemies," she observed.

She cautioned non-governmental organizations to help look for solutions in times of conflicts rather than concentrate only on statistics.

"Avoid politicians who use you to cause terror against their opponents," Yvette Chesson, the Establishment Coordinator of the Angie Brooks International Centre, a non-governmental organization in Liberia said.

Chesson noted helping put Kenya on fire will not help any of the youths but instead they should engage political class on the real issues affecting them rather than misuse them to cause chaos and mayhem amongst fellow citizens.

"Why live in conflict when their children are going to school," she asked the participants who included women leaders drawn from all parts of the country.

She called for the formation of process between women and youths against electoral violence as the elections approaches.

Chesson revealed that from experience in Africa, scheduled elections also mean scheduled violence, a habit that must be addressed before the electioneering period begins through awareness creation.

She told the delegates that Kenya comes first before politics adding that all women leaders must have credibility to be able to address peace and security issues before members of the public.

"We succeeded in Liberia because the public found us credible and trustable.

"This made our work easier and everyone accepted our proposals," she added.

Chesson told women leaders to engage the children, the youths, the media, religious and traditional leaders by giving them tools to use in preaching peace during elections.

She warned failure to engage the media may lead to irresponsible journalism that in the end may end up dividing the country into political party blocks.

"The media must be told to tone down some of their writings and broadcasts that are quoted from irresponsible political leaders," she noted.

She suggested a memorandum of understanding be set up and signed by all political party representatives and polling agents to ensure that peace and security is maintained during the electioneering period.

Chesson warned women not to rely on the government to create peace and security for them, adding peace is owned by the people and it is the people who must see the value of maintaining peace and security at all times.

"Our core role is having a peaceful and healthy future generation as opposed to having internal displaced persons dotted in most parts of the country," she said.

Najia Zewari from Afghanistan peace council revealed women in Afghanistan made their mark when they helped make peace in the war ton country.

"We came out as women and not as women belonging to different political parties to help bring peace to our country," she noted.

Zewari noted it is women who hold peace at hand and must go out through coalitions to call for peaceful elections.