Peacebuilding and Election Violence in Eastern Africa

Angry Mob

Some of the largest peace- building efforts, in terms of the numbers of people involved, that AGLI supports, concern elections. When large-scale violence erupted during the 2008 Kenya elections, it took everyone by surprise, including AGLI. Friends in Kenya, partly supported by AGLI, rushed to respond as well as they could without preparation. Out of that response grew the AGLI partner Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT).

Since that time, AGLI has participated in projects to prevent and respond to election violence in Burundi (2010 and 2015) and Kenya (2013). These projects have been carried out by a small number of AGLI and partner staff and a large number of in-country volunteers. In Burundi, 720 participants were organized into Democracy and Peace Groups, 120 joined the Quaker Peace Network as election observers, and 160 were trained as citizen reporters. Citizen reporters were given cell phones to report on conditions in their communities before, during, and after the election. A call-in center fielded messages from the reporters and rebroadcast them to group members in the affected area, with the intent that the Democracy and Peace Groups could intercede if there was trouble.

The general model for election-violence prevention developed in 2010 for Burundi was the basis for the work by AGLI and FCPT in the 2013 Kenyan election. AGLI extended-service volunteers Joe and Kathy Ossmann worked alongside Kenyans, doing voter education and election observation and reported their observations in the Spring 2013 PeaceWays – AGLI.
Kenya will again hold elections on August 8, 2017. Conditions that threaten violence are already brewing. AGLI partners FCPT and Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) are busy preparing and responding to violent incidents that have already occurred. Peter Serete, Citizen Reporter Coordinator for TCSC, reported that as of March 3, 2017, TCSC and FCPT had trained 420 new citizen reporters. “We are targeting to reach 1200 impartial and non-partisan citizen reporters who will help TCSC/ FCPT and our international partners to intervene in violent situations before, during, and after the election on August 8. “Already our trained citizen reporters have gathered information and reported that communities are prepared for intimidation and violence.”

The action plan for addressing potential violence includes:

– Identification of information- gathering sources
– Review of previous violent trends and patterns
– Identification of conflict sources
– Analysis of sources of violence based on hotspot areas
– Identification of possible causes of escalation and potential de-escalation methods
– Development of a work plan for crisis management

Ezra Kigondu, FCPT Help Increase the Peace Coordinator and TCSC Program Coordinator, reported that they already had a homicide on January 10, 2017 resulting from a political argument between a Kikuyu supporter of the Jubilee political party and a Luo supporter of the CORD political party. The Kikuyu victim’s relatives planned revenge and the killer went into hiding, so the victim’s relatives burned the killer’s business.

The local administrators called TCSC/FCPT to help negotiate a peaceful funeral for the deceased, whose relatives vowed they would seek justice using violence, as they did not trust the police to handle the case appropriately.

TCSC and FCPT did a round of listening sessions with both the victim’s and perpetrator’s families, to develop a possible intervention mechanism. The two sides separately agreed that the community needed to bury the deceased. TCSC and FCPT requested security for the funeral, as peace talks had only just begun.

The first attempt at a burial was not successful. Both CORD and Jubilee supporters were present and the result was mayhem. Several people were injured, and no burial occurred. Volunteers who had been trained in AVP, HROC, and other peacebuilding methods immediately came to help resolve the conflict. In a transformative community dialogue, both sides came and agreed to peacefully bury the body, which was laid to rest on February 2, 2017.

Since then, TCSC and FCPT have been having separate meetings with both families. The situation remains tense. TCSC and FCPT are organizing follow-up meetings with trained HROC facilitators and conducting civic education seminars in the community. They are hoping their response to this situation will lay a foundation for a peaceful election.

This article was featured in the spring edition of PeaceWays

References: Publications: PeaceWays AGLI. Fall 2010 & Spring 2013; Reports from Kenya, davidzarembka.com – posts #428 March 3, 2017 and #426 February 12, 2017.
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African Great Lakes Initiative
David Bucura, coordinator
bucura@aglifpt.org