Peace Tree – Kenya

By Milena Rampoldi and Denise Nanni, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with the association Peace Tree in Kenya. We talked about the main social issues in Kenya, and about possible cooperative solutions. Peace Tree is a very important example about how important it is to connect peace and human rights, and to work with the civil society, and local authorities in order to promote a peaceful, and tolerant society struggling against all kind of extremism. 

Which are the main social issues in Kenya?
1.      Technology
Mobile Phones – This has alienated people from the social gathering. People are no longer having face-face conversation but instead they write short text messages (SMS) to each other.  Using the available communication platforms such as face-book, twitter and Instagram, people share information and hold meetings without physically coming together to discuss issues. This has also changed the way people relate to each other.
Despite this, the new mobile technology has brought a lot of good things that have led to the improvement of people`s life. For instance it has facilitated banking services, paying bills, shopping online, renewal of documents e.g driving licences and acquiring means of transport such as Uber.
2.     Education
This is highly affected by the level of poverty in some parts of Kenya. Some academically talented children are not able to proceed with studies as parents have no sufficient resources to either pay for their higher education or take them to good schools. In some regions girls are discouraged from taking science subjects with the belief that they are difficult.
There has been frequent teacher`s strike to demand higher pay from the government. This has affected the smooth learning of student and as a result they try to use other means to get good grades. Currently we have the strike of higher education personnel in process.
Although there are these challenging issues on education, the level of literacy has gone up. Most girls are now enrolled in schools and majority manage to complete their elementary level.
3.     Religion
Religious radicalism is quite common in the country although many do not approve it. Some religious groups go to the extreme of advocating for their religion and holding others as unbelievers, thereby causing harm to them or discriminating them. Religion is also being commercialised where some people are misled into giving their property to be prayed for.
In spite of these unpleasing elements, people are in search of God through various religious denominations and sectors. They hold to their faith in one Supreme Being and understand the need to co-exist respecting the diversity of faiths.  
4.     Resources
Land is an important element in Kenya. Most communities in Kenya are attached to land. This has led to land grabbing by some powerful individuals while others are driven from where they bought land just because they are not indigenous people of those regions.
The gap between the rich and the poor is widening each year. This is due to poor distribution of resources at local and national level.  As a result there is a lot of unemployment especially among the youth which contributes to crimes such as robbery.
 The devolved government has been introduced in Kenya following the promulgation of the new Kenyan constitution. This is currently facilitating the allocation of resources   both at local and national level.
5.     Security
Security has been a challenge for some time with Al-shabaab groups realising some attacks in Kenya. This has led to mistrust of the people who joins the Al-shabaab and later come back to re-join their families. The families reject them and the government keeps a stern watch over them.   In areas affected by this, movement is restricted especially in the evenings.
Some extra judicial killings has taken place in Kenya, for example the killing of a lawyer and his client. This has raised concern over the security in the country. To counter the insecurity the government has taken to upgrade the police system and some individuals and organisation taking to street to denounce the episode.
6.     Health
Cancer and HIV/Aids are the most challenging diseases right now. Although HIV/ Aids is almost contained, there is still the challenge that many people who suffer from this  deadly disease do not have enough resources to help them live a healthy life. Depending on where one lives, sometimes it is hard to get medicine due unavailability of drugs in government hospitals. The treatment for cancer is sometimes beyond reach for the poor people.
The fact that medical workers are on strike these days, people die of diseases that could otherwise be cured.
Despite all this, availability of NHIF card for all has fostered equal treatment of people in both public and private hospitals.
The government has embarked on food distribution to the most affected areas especially of Turkana County.
7.     Environment
Due to climate change, currently there is draught epidemic which has resulted to  mal-nutrition especially among women and children.
Shortage of water has led to death of animals which is source of food for most pastoralist communities in Kenya.
There is environmental degradation caused by mining and extraction of natural resources activities. This has led to the climatic changes that are affecting the country adversely.
Some NGOs and individuals have taken efforts to advocate for the care of environment advising people on how to preserve the environment.
8.    Culture
This has played a positive and at times a negative role in the lives of the people.  Some cultures advocate for FGM (female genital mutilation). This has affected the victim not only physically but also psychologically.
Early marriages find their support in some of these cultures.  For instance during the forum on the young motherhood, the Imams or Muslim leaders were very much in support of early marriage. This denies girls the right to education.
Poverty has led families to marry off their young daughters in order to get the dowry.
How does Peace Tree try to address these problems?
We conduct trainings of:
·      Peace building- To  foster co-existence of people  respecting the cultural diversity
·      Civic Education- To  gain knowhow on how the government runs
·      Human rights- To help groups know not only to know their rights but also their obligation as Kenyan citizens
·      Social Accountability – To equip people not only with skills that help to hold their leaders accountable on the way they use power and resources but also to help them develop projects that can improve their livelihood such as small businesses.
·      Forum- where people come together to share issues affecting them and find a way forward
·      We network with right minded organisations  and through this we carry out some activities
·      Engage the government
How do you advocate for human rights?
·                    Trainings- We realise various trainings to equip citizens  with skills and knowledge  to track and report human rights abuses
·                    Media – We use radio shows to talk about human rights and the importance of promoting the same.
·                    Peace marches-  To advocate for peace
·                    Sport Activities -where  groups or communities in conflicts are brought together
·                    Sharing research information  with various groups and authorities personnel
How has civil society been responsive to our initiatives so far?
The Kenyan civil society ollaborates  in implementing joint activities for instance public forums. We also cooperate in the implementation of some of our activities, and release joint statements on important issues.
What about your cooperation with local authorities?
We invite officials from both the National and County government to selected activities e.g. local chiefs, from the security forces and elected leaders.
We also share information from the findings from our activities.