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International Day of Peace, 21 September 2010

Peace stories


Project Amani: A grassroots initiative for peace in Kenya

Project Amani (PA) is a peace, healing and reconciliation initiative conceived and forwarded by the Kenyans for Change youth department (Youths 4 Kenya) for the people of Kenya. It is a proactive cause that will mobilize the ordinary wananchi (citizens) to be part and parcel of national healing and transformation.

While Kenyans for Change is a legally registered charitable trust in Kenya, Project Amani has been extended as a cause to belong to all Kenyans. There is no demand or requirement that one must be a member of Kenyans for Change (as an organization) so as to support or participate in PA. Yet it is our firm belief that all patriotic Kenyans at heart are people who desire to see progressive change. No matter which groups or organizations we may individually belong to - we all desire the same thing - a great Kenya. As such at heart we are all Kenyans for change.

Without peace - nothing that we achieve as individuals or groups can be considered sustainable development. If Kenya adopts a pattern of death and destruction every election cycle – then investing in our nation will be vanity. We must have PEACE for PROSPERITY.

By having youth at the vanguard of this cause, PA will help restore this generation's tattered image. For youth have recently been know to be all too readily angered, violent and even criminal in their protests. This was not only evident during the post election violence period but even when there are disagreements with education institution administration - youth have burnt, damaged and looted property. Indeed, for a generation that is meant to be the leaders of today - the youthful generation has proven itself ill prepared to receive the baton of national leadership.

As the generation that was most instrumental in the pre and post election violence of 2007 - it is only fitting that the youthful generation take the lead in changing their minds and way. PA is an opportunity for the youthful generation to come of age - to model maturity and readiness. Let us not forget that statistics show that at least 70% of Kenyans are under the age of 40.

Yet even with a youth focus, PA is a cause to empower Kenyans. ALL generations, communities, genders, businesses and society at large will benefit from peace and healing of our nation.

Photo Essay


building bridges Kenya

Building Bridges (Kenya)

Launched on 12th April 2010, Building Bridges recognizes and rewards peacemakers and peace projects across Kenya as a way of strengthening the peace building capacity of Kenyan citizens. It aims to encourage all Kenyans to engage in peace building and peacemaking, including organizing peace gatherings, community discussions, creative and sporting activities, or even holding festivities and doing pro bono work to ensure peace. Building Bridges offers a platform to all Kenyans to connect in their efforts for peace and to inspire each other.

To become part of the peace movement, peace initiatives can be uploaded to an interactive platform on the Building Bridges website. A strong cross-media focus is meant to ensure most inclusiveness and reach out to as many Kenyans as possible, overcoming obstacles of space, literacy and technical access. The platform aims to foster collaboration and interactivity on peace initiatives across Kenya, support and connect those doing great work, and create a sustainable culture of peace throughout the country.

Building Bridges wants to encourage and stimulate those initiatives which contribute to preventing or overcoming conflict within or between communities e.g. villages, neighbourhoods, faith groups, families, businesses. Those conflicts could be related to land issues, ethnicity, and corruption, among others.

Building Bridges started off as a competition with the long term aim to develop into a Kenyan peace movement which encourages people to take own peaceful action and connect with each other. Instead of remaining a once-off opportunity, the overarching goal is to transform the Building Bridges initiative into a long-term self-sustaining peace movement in which everyone, no matter from what background or region, can play an important part on the road to peace in Kenya. With more than 600 ongoing peace projects initiated since its inception, the platform will continue with all the projects connecting and encouraging more peace initiatives in the country.

For more information, please visit: http://www.buildingbridges.co.ke

Study + Hard Work= Success

former combatants in class

Juba, Southern Sudan - The topic of today’s class on the blackboard reads: "Subtraction" and the students diligently scribble down numbers and symbols in their exercise books.  Most are much older than you would expect a class of pupils learning simple mathematical equations to be. But they are not exactly regular students – they are ex-combatants who have voluntarily handed in their weapons.

For their transition from soldier to civilian, DDR participants are provided with training that can help them to earn a living outside the military. The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), an Implementing Partner of the UNDP Reintegration Programme, offers ex-combatants several career options for DDR participants to choose from.

In addition to their training for a new career the ex-combatants are also given educational assistance in the form of help with both numeracy and literacy, others may obtain computer training or taught the English language. For some of the ex-combatants it is for the first time in their lives that they found themselves on the school bench.

Paul Pita Moga, one of the ex-combatants, never learnt how to read or write when he was a child. "I come from a place where we keep cows; I didn’t know anything except fighting".

Paul is doing well with his mathematics course, but admits that he is probably too old to pick up a new language completely, especially as it is so different from his native one, but he is still giving the English course a try. Paul finds he is not the only one struggling.

"I memorise what I've been taught until I actually get a grasp of the subject. Once I got 20 points for my homework in the English language, but I kept studying at home over and over again and finally I got 100 points, but so many people did not make it. As for me, I enjoy school" says Paul.

He registered with GTZ in June this year and has regularly attended training ever since. As his final Reintegration option in Central Equatoria he has chosen the small business training. For every two weeks that he attends his training he receives a payment of 100 SDG. From this 100 SDG, he gives 40 SDG to his wife and he puts the remaining 60 SDG into his own small business. Within one month he earned an extra 300 SDG just through selling fruits and vegetables. The success of his humble endeavour encouraged him to seek further opportunities to expand his business and he approached the local authorities in Juba who eventually allocated him space at the Juba market.

As a part of an encouragement campaign for each classroom, Paul, who had previously been elected the leader of his training course, shared his story with his fellow classmates; this meant more than ten ex-combatants in his class are now following his example.

Paul pinpoints one of the challenges of the DDR programme, namely distance.  Some of the ex-combatants are from Mangala and Terakeka have for different reasons have chosen to receive their reintegration package in Juba which means travelling to the training centre daily or looking for a place to stay in Juba.    Paul, being a resident of Mangala, decided to settle in Juba because there are more business opportunities than in Mangala. He managed to find himself a small hut to stay in around the Gabat area, which is close to the training centre. 

Paul had to learn everything from scratch, other ex combatants, with the help of the DDR Reintegration programme, found their core skills are being used by the training centre.

During the registration with GTZ, Morris Nyerji Ruben, also an ex-combatant, did the obligatory tests and it turned out that he has excellent numeric and literacy skills. And that was somewhat explainable as before becoming an SPLA fighter Morris was a school teacher.

Morris completed his A-levels in Sudan at the local secondary school in April 1978.  He remained at his school as a teacher and carried on with his teaching career for the next five years.  After obtaining his teaching certificate he was promoted to the position of a headmaster. But in 1987 the reality of the country collapsing into war his life changed course with Morris joining as a fighter. He was an active combatant for three years until his commanders realised that Morris was a teacher and employed him to run their educational programme.  Still as a teacher he travelled to Uganda in 1996 and ended up working for Oxfam.  Morris returned to Sudan in 2003 to continue his career in education. In 2005 the demobilisation started and Morris was screened for DDR programme.

"I came here as a member of the ex-combatants’ community".

After seeing his enrolment test results and discovering that he was a certified teacher,   Morris was employed by GTZ to teach the adult numeracy and literacy classes in Juba. This allows him to have his own income and also allows GTZ to use Morris’ skills in peer-to-peer teaching, providing other ex-combatants with trainers from their own communities. Aside from teaching numeracy and literacy, he is also benefiting from the computer training for himself.

"I would like to address all other ex-combatants who have not become part of DDR programme; I want to ask them to kindly request to join this programme".

"If they stay at home without knowing about the DDR programme or don’t want to follow any Reintegration courses, then there is a chance that in the future they may be forgotten by the government without being given any support.  Then he or she maybe not feel at ease at home in his home community – seeing their former colleagues earning money and they themselves being prevented from having the same opportunity".

The transition from times of war in the military back to the reality of a civilian life can be confusing and anxious times for the thousands of DDR participants like Paul and Morris, with serious challenges still to come. But by empowering these ex-combatants with a new set of civilian skills the transition will be easier and less frustrating for their future careers.

By Katerina Nezhelskaya


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