Thursday, December 5, 2013

Making Our Votes Accountable

Participants at the Elected Leaders Forum
Every time after every election year in Kenya, citizens have always had a growing desire for public participation on social, economic and political development for their areas of residence. For a long time it has been argued that for any genuine and sustainable development to be realized, people’s involvement especially at the local level is an important aspect that cannot be ignored. In Kibera's case, this fundamental theory and practice has not been the case. Therefore until today, Kibera is one of the poorest and most unstable societies. This is evidenced by the lack of enough infrastructural and economic development witnessed in the slums. Poverty, inequality and social exclusion are deeply-rooted structural and historical issues in Kibera.

However, members of Kibera, mostly youth, have come to the realisation that even though democracy dictates that the people are sovereign, through elections, people elect representatives to take forward their concerns, but in doing so they do not, in theory, relinquish any sovereignty. This therefore means that political power and decision-making are still vested with the citizens of a country. Therefore, in electing politicians, residents enable others to make decisions on their behalf, but in so doing do not relinquish any of their power. The elected individuals are therefore needed to consult and work closely with the electorate to find ways of working together for sustainable development.
ODM Party Kibra and Langata Constituencies  Chairman Ochieng Jera, President of Yes Youth Can, Dalton Wycliffe and Sarangombe Member of County Assembly Owino Kotieno at the Forum

The Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation project identifies and respects the needs of the residents of Kibera who elected their leaders in the March 2013 elections. Before the elections, the Kibera residents were offered a platform with the Action to first vet the aspiring Members of the County Assemblies in a public debate for aspiring candidates. This was then followed by a debate for the nominated candidates where each candidate did offer his blue print for the elections with inputs and questions from the residents. After the elections, the Kibera populace still demanded the possibility of engaging the leaders so as to determine the development priorities for the residents.

In the event that was scheduled on 30th November 2013 at the Hotel Harlequins, the Kibera residents had the opportunity to reach out again to the leaders and re-examine the leaders’ contract with the people.  In the event, the leaders and the residents agreed that there were numerous promises made during the campaign that cannot be achieved immediately. However, there was a general agreement that the communities living in Kibera can still work towards desirable unity and peacefully co-exist in a bid to realise meaningful development. The Kibera individual is more interested in accessing their leaders, getting their children in school and getting meaningful engagement for the youth.
Chief Mutai of Sarangombe with members of The Action

Several alternatives available for the youth were explored. The youth can access the Youth Enterprise Development Fund as well as the Uwezo Fund that is yet to be rolled down. However, for these funds to be managed well by the youth, they need entrepreneurial skills that the many civic organisations working in Kibera can be engaged to offer. The youth also need to be creative and more development oriented. Youth also agreed that it is time they use their leaders as linkages towards development initiatives. This also called for more forums where the residents and the leaders can be taken to account on the use of devolved funds and development initiatives that can be started together to help the youth and the society at large.

Story written by:
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member

This Project is supported by The European Union

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Celebrating culture as an instrument of reconciliation in Kibera

When Mr Kitavi entered the Laini Saba grounds, drawn by a dancer the crown erupted with cheers and laughter. It is not every day that you get to have such a rowdy reception of a leader in Kibera after the elections have been done. But this particular day was exceptional.

The action Inter ethnic youth dialogue and peaceful reconciliation project organised a cultural extravaganza that took place in Kibera Laini Saba with an aim of celebrating the peoples culture as one of the ways that it can unite people despite their differences.

There were colorful displays of ornaments, mats, traditional medicine, decorated guards, traditional drums and traditional food from different tribes from the maasai, kikuyu, kisii, luo, Kamba and Nubian communities.
Mr. Kitavi shakes his shoulders as it is done with the Kamba dance
The highlight of the day was when the communities represented treated the audience with traditional dances. The audience went up in a frenzy as they cheered, clapped and twisted their waists to the melodies of the guitar, traditional drums and voices singing to old songs sang way back before modern music took over the music scene in Kenya. Mr. Kitavi the Laini Saba Ward Representative also treated the audince to his dancing skills as he was drawn to the dancing floor by a group of women performing a Kamba dance. Even our very own Josiah Omotto, the CEO of Umande was not left behind by the break a leg session.
Mr. Josiah Omotto dances to the tune of a Luo dance alongside one of the dancers

It was indeed a fun day both for the organisers and the audience who consisted of adults and young children who were lured by the voices of the MCs, the colorful displays and the dances.

The nubian dance

 The Kibra residents were reminded that despite coming from different tribes they need each other in their daily lives. The present Chiefs, sub-chiefs and Ward representatives were each given a chance to speak to the people. They urged the residents of Kibera to live together as good neigbours and develop of a culture of talking to each other to solve their disputes. "Our fore fathers such as Koitailel fought for peace. Be among those that can be counted among them. Let us not discriminate each other based on tribe, race and how much money one has, " urged Mr Kitavi.

The Luo dance
The Kibra residents were also urged to appreciate each others tribes instead of only pointing out perceived negative aspects of one another tribe. " A garden does not look appealing if it only has one type of flower. Try to imagine Kenya with only one tribe, how would it be? Our enemy is poverty here in Kibra and not our tribal background," said Pius Otieno, the Sarangombe Ward representative.

At the moment, allocation of land in Kibra has brought up a lot of unrest among the residents. Mr. Otieno stated that everyone has a right to stay in Kibera and no one has the right to say that watu wengine ni wa kucome (other people just came but we are the rightful owners). The audience was urged not to allow anyone yo divide them on the basis of land.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Mbona Tusibonge?" in Denmark

An Action member giving a presentation to Danish Students
For one and a half weeks now, four of the Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation Project have been in Denmark for an exchange visit that included an exchange programme with the Danish Agents for Change, present the concept “Leadership Without Positions” to the Danish schools and exchange ideas on the possibility of coming up with an international youth volunteer programme under SustainableEnergy. The visit, which was organized by SustainableEnergy, has been one of the major stories of change witnessed in the peace initiative started in Kibera in the last two years.

The Action members, upon landing in Denmark, attended a two day seminar where both the Action members and the Danish Agents for Change were taken through steps of making a joined presentation for the benefit of their audiences. In the process of learning, the session further buttressed the role of change agents, basically out of the work the two are doing in the community. While the Danish Agents for Change work on the effects of climate change in which they advise people to produce only what is important for consumption,  the Kenyan team has been involved with a successful campaign communities co-existing peacefully in Kibera using dialogue as a tool and creating awareness in the importance of voter education.

Several schools were visited in Denmark between these times. The Kenyan Delegation took it upon them to carry out elaborate stories of change, addressing the situation as it is in the Kenyan state. The little that the peace ambassadors have pulled together in their work was evaluated as a means of consolidating changes in the society. At one time, the teachers audience in Denmark was impressed that the world has come to the realization of what it can do to itself; a fact manifested by the two different cultures and backgrounds fusing into one to form a working partnership in Denmark. The major message being that people can do something within their means to effect changes wherever they are.

Story By:
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member
This project is funded by The European union

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A New Tool for Peace Ambassadors

The Action Inter-Ethnic Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation Project Peace Ambassadors have managed to create and use meaningful dialogue as a tool for peace building and reconciliation in Kibera. The concept is such that there is a realization that members of the society have always had a feeling that they can offer possible solutions to their problems if given a chance. In most dialogue forums that The Action has attended, the feedback has been that the society members feel relieved and pour out their fears, aspirations and needs more freely when there is a free for all dialogue platforms. The sessions are normally structured in a way that problems are highlighted, discussed and possible solutions and points of actions drawn.

Ole giving practical training to the PMC
 In the month of July, The Action team received a boost from Hand the Ball Foundation on how handball can be used as a tool to enhance dialogue in the society. In a training of trainers organised by the Danish organisation (Hand the Ball) members of the Action were introduced to a concept so unique and fun to apply. The process emphasizes on the unique strength found in the power of group play. In a society where people find it hard to create time for play, Hand the Ball introduces activities build on insights into the positive of mental and social effects of physical group activities. The residents of Kibera sometimes get themselves warped in isolation of the mind and spirit. The practice shall see them move out of such entrapments and reach out to the other for meaningful engagement and dialogue.

Furthermore, the idea of competition for everything in the Kibera society is not new. To people living and
Hand the Ball in Practice
working in Kibera, there is always a sense of competition on whatever an individual does. Schools are no longer centres of academic enlightenment but a place to score high grades and beat the other opponent in exams. Churches operate with a sense of outdoing each other than avenues for spiritual growth. There is a massive scramble for the little resources available and people are constantly scheming against one another, a fact that has seen the rise of violence and mistrust. The peace ambassadors shall adopt the concept of non competition that is employed in Hand the Ball activities to diffuse the tension arising from the extensive competition in the society.

The most important tool to learn while using Hand the Ball activities as a tool for dialogue is that communication becomes an inherent part of interacting and the main focus is cast on fun, team dynamics and collective play.  The peace ambassadors therefore shall be called to provide an avenue of constructive play and meaningful dialogue, by first offering the community members in any forum, school, churches, seminars, with a ball to show that ownership is open to every individual in the society. The said balls will be used to initiate dialogue and preferably also be used  to offer a platform for fun and play, thereby giving a chance to learn, act and have fun.

Story By:
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member

This project is supported by The European Union

Consolidating the Gains...

The Action members arriving for a community forum
Kibera is a place of many complexities. In the late 1990's running to the early 2000, the major issue that used to create crisis now and then was the landlord-tenant issue. A problem that was caused by misunderstanding from both parties, it at one time brought a major violence that it took the government and elders intervention to see it end. Then there was the political party youth wingers who were a law to themselves. the issue was such a big threat that some residents decided to leave Kibera and seek settlement somewhere. this was followed by the political cashes whose major impact was seen in 2008 post election violence. in the post election violence, the politically instigated violence took a shape of ethnic communities fighting one another. while peace initiatives in Kibera, The Action included, did a major work in restoring peace during the just concluded elections, Stellamaris Ndunge, a resident of Mashimoni believes there is another emerging potential threat to peace.

Here is the story:     

“I first attended the project activities during the Opinion Shapers Forum held at Anglican Church of Kenya Church in Makina. It was such an amazing thing to see groupings that have always been fighting each other sit at the table and talk to one another. I personally know the people who were invited for the occasion and could not believe that such hard-liners were really listening to one another. The event challenged me a lot. In Kibera, I can say that ethnic communities are now metamorphosing to class and territorial groupings. These groupings pose real danger to the community than the ethnic divides that were earlier experienced.

As such, in the past two months, and even earlier before that, I have embarked on a journey to reach out to these youth groupings and make them see that they need each other, other than creating territories that are out of bounds to those who do not belong. I see this as a significant realisation because not so many people have seen the dangers lying in these groupings. It shall be very hard in the future for Kibera to work together if people are already grouping and regrouping along class, territories, peer and villages circle.

The project activities made me realise a potential threat to community harmony. It made me realise that the emerging situation in Kibera might be harder to manage the already than existing problem of people divided along ethnic lines. Whereas people from same ethnic communities may share very little apart from the language and culture, people from the same class or religion share same beliefs, ideologies, way of life and have unseen common bond. It will be very hard to contain a situation of ideological and philosophical differences.”

The story has a silver lining though. The Kibera populace has acquired major awareness in peace building and reconciliation as tools for peaceful co-existence. the lady believes something can be done. The Kibera society would not sit back and watch as gains made are watered down by few individuals. there are ways and there is a willingness too.

Story Compiled By:
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member

This project is supported by the European Union

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

On Youth and Governance

The Peace and Voter Ambassadors from the Action Inter-Ethnic Youth Dialogue and Peaceful Reconciliation took a progressive effort when they met the community youth members in Nakuru and Kisumu over the past week in round table youth to youth discussions.  The well conceived idea was an inter-county youth sharing with regards to milestones made so far in the peace and reconciliation initiatives.  The choice of the county to be visited relied most on the statistics of the year 2008, where the violence witnessed in Kibera (Nairobi County) could only be equated by the one witnessed in Ronda Slums (Nakuru County) and Kondele (Kisumu County). As a matter of fact, and at one particular time in 2008, the government had to issue a curfew in Nakuru because of the wanton destruction of property and the very senseless killings witnessed there.

In the discussions that followed, the Action members shared what can be termed as some of the best practices used to reach out to the community members in the appeal to build and maintain peace. It was very encouraging to note that some practices were widely used by the Nakuru and Kisumu youth too. For instance, members of the Action found it hard during the very beginning to make inroads in Kibera due to the presence of community “gate keepers.” These are a group of individuals who have the belief that they have the final say on what activity should happen in a certain territory of the informal settlements. The Action realized that the Nakuru and Kisumu youth too found it hard in the initial stages to maneuver around these individuals. However, it was realized that constant dialogue and forging useful partnership with the individuals is an effective way of bringing them on board and engaging them in peaceful activities.
The writer (right) and one of the frequent contributors to this blog, Caroline Chencha.

 Another big challenge that the youth across the counties experienced during their noble quest was the division of Kenyan people along ethnic communities. The rivalry between tribes is such that even in community forums, ethnic identities tend to form from the sitting arrangements to the contributions on subjects discussed. Youth living in these three counties all agreed that it was actually the most significant challenge that if were to be overcame then the peace initiatives could have been easily achieved. The Action employed a strategy of making sure that key ethnic communities living within Kibera and has always been in rivalry; either politically, socially or because of resources, were always invited in forums and be reminded in the beauty of unity in diversity. The Kisumu youth even had an inter-ethnic community theatre show, to showcase the beauty of the coming together as members of the same nation.

The climax of the exchange programme, however, was the discussions on the opportunities available for the youth in the new dispensation. Pursuant to the current constitutional dispensation process, the youth believe that devolution of power has opened a lot of potential opportunities that they can use to their advantage. Since devolution, as envisioned in the constitution, is a people’s owned process with the national objectives towards effective grass root leadership and service delivery to the people, the youth feel that it is now their time to get involved in county government structures through policy formulation and implementation. And while at it, the youth want to enhance the sense of accountability, transparency, maximum participation of the public, self-governance, fair distribution of resources and acquisition of more economic engagement activities.

The youth believe that to take the task ahead, they need the necessary skills for mobilization and advocacy. Currently, a good number of youth are still affected by poverty, unemployment, inadequacy of knowledge and drug and substance abuse, factors which in their final output result to a calibre of youth who are insensitive to the surrounding environment and may so often are committed to engage in disastrous, unlawful and meaningless activities. To this end, the youth need to be reminded to believe that they are energetic hence may be in a position to offer better positive services to their respective communities rather than engage in such vices. The youth need to take education as a serious tool for sustainable development. Information imparted on the youth should be relevant so as to promote their capabilities to be geared towards a more improved approach in giving attention to concerted and coordinated economic, social and political activities.

Story By
Ramogi Osewe
PMC Member

This project is funded by the European Union

Monday, May 27, 2013

Democracy and the Emerging Culture

There we were, and now here we are thinking that things have changed to better if not the best! Leadership, which some people refer to as governance, is a crucial issue. A Kibera society where people have got different versions to its meaning is regularly occupied with lots of activities as pertains, and is majorly political. It is then, and from the background, that we should ask ourselves the significance of major leadership decisions. Some tag it the epicentre of Kenya’s political development, but it’s so challenging to summarily report whether this perception is consummate with the people’s level of empowerment on political reforms.

In the past regimes, there was very minimal tolerance of citizen’s freedom or any mode of expression in whichever manner and direction; the more you tried championing an agenda focused on the public’s interest the faster you risked your life. In this time where Kenya is celebrating the year of Jubilee, it is paramount to note that this has been accompanied with the opportunity of the Kenya’s Supreme document-“the constitution”- which is protective to all.  I have a strong belief that we, the people, may champion the reform courses from the lowest level so far to the top most. This is because a number of progressive steps have been made right from the struggle for multi party to the current spirit of devolution of power using individual commitment and contribution.

However, some of these gains have been reversed because of emerging factors in every Kenyan election year. While the factors vary, money has constantly played a crucial role in our decision making. While I believe that money is a valuable and convenient material it is also a mysterious disaster if prioritized for auxiliary purposes. In leadership, the citizenry should consider more the people’s integrity and competence to manage our resources and enhance effective service delivery aimed at a sustainable development momentum, contrary to salivating for short term handouts then start unnecessary complains just a while after elections. This is a primary concern which, if not addressed, may stop achieving sustainable peace. The electorates’ thirst for immediate gains rather than well structured enduring systems is a perfect recipe for chaos.

Yes, we all understand that planning for leadership positions to a greater extent requires some resources. My worry, however, is that  if money is the in thing,  should it be the  same resource one has to use in facilitating the planning or bribing the electorates’ sober mind of clear decision making? Again, if all who pocket much are always perceived as winners even before elections, then why can’t the electorates do advise the election governing body to pre-declare them earlier instead of letting others waste the little resources into the process? Voters still value pennies instead of the holistic understanding of what better leadership and governance mean for their lives. Can the real and natural Kibera youth stand up?

Written by:
Mr. Sigar James Agumba
PMC Member