The unchartered path: The journey of a peace builder
Prepared by: Wairimu Eric Ndung’u, (intern) Communication Department
Mentioning the planned for field trip to Baragoi to my relatives was not quite an easy conversation to hold, little did I know I’d be met with fretful facial expression, displaying their shock as I repeatedly elaborated of the trip. It was not a surprise to me, for we have had a violent take on the region, beliefs and insights exemplified by the mainstream media. The region’s strained relationships are instigated by the existential competition over resources: land, water and pasture, majority being pastoralist communities. Such has heightened fear by families for relatives, most of whom are reluctant to encourage their visits to the region. If not for violence, it is the unforgiving weather conditions, the scorching sun or the erratic flash floods, as the headlines demonstrates.
Apparent that they could not stop me, they at least encouraged me to take precaution to limit the effects of the weather conditions towards my health. The subsequent days were characterized by preparation for the daring journey to the north, which actually came true on the 13th February 2020. I had to be ready for my first ever-long journey, and not just a journey, but also one to the north. I actually had fears about the place but as it later unfolds, all that changed.
I realized that the making of decisions out of fear serves no purpose and hence the daring experience to undertake the peace building efforts, furthermore, CPI-Kenya has been working in the region for years successfully. The purpose of insertion is that it encourages making decisions from the actual and clear perspectives of a subject or a place. This does not mean the region is free of conflicts or violence, but there is more than just the news about the region; the beautiful environment, new culture, interesting programs and many more.
Traversing the country through counties for days gave me an experience of the current situation of our nation. The exponential growth in some regions I have been to before, the rich cultures, but also the delayed/slow progress in some government projects and the poor road connections in some areas characterized the journey to Baragoi. Baragoi is a town located in Northern Kenya, Samburu County and according to the 2009 census, it has a population of 20,000 comprising of both the Samburu and Turkana communities.
It’s been two days of anxiety, waiting for the day to step foot in the region and when the day came, I came short of words, I had to lay back relax, watch and listen to the events and persons at Nachola and Baragoi. The children were really cool, welcoming and full of expectations. The joy to converge at Nachola Primary School was evident, being their first day (their parents gave consent for their children to attend the peace camp, less reasons to worry about their where about). The Inter-Community Peace Camp is an annual event that seeks to build inter community peace by promoting friendship among children and parents in neighboring pastoralist communities. This time, the peace camp took place at Nachola Primary school – Baragoi, with the aim of promoting cohabitation between Samburu and Turkana communities through their children.
The team was composed of Hilary Halkano Bukono – Executive Director, Monicah Kinyua – Ass. Director, Purity, Triza, Francis, teachers, police, cooks, security guards, our very willing donors; Zivik and Rotary International and myself. Understanding of each other’s role eased the duties of the camp, efficiently engaging with each other and the children, hence ensuring everyone had a smile on the face. Such activities needs joy, a happy team, and happy children to make it a worthwhile experience. Children need activities that stimulate joy, exciting games, and good stories to ensure they understand the friendship and peace concepts as they look forward to the next activity.
The security team, which plays a critical role in the region was present to talk to the children, encouraging them that they absorb the theme for peace, this will make their work easier and help build a better society, less of tensions, cattle rustling and banditry. It is essential for children to grow up understanding the security forces as contributors to peace and not as enemies of the people.
Purity (Interactions for Peace program manager), and Trizah, CPI Kenya field officer Baragoi office, preparing a team for a game session.
Children peace building Activities
During this remarkable chapter of the program, CPI Kenya worked with young children, of class 4 and 5. Young ones deserve simple means to foster interactions/friendships. Games and songs offered the best alternatives to stimulate joy.
The tensions between the Samburu and Turkana communities have become a burden for the children. The Right to Education has been inhibited by the violent conflicts; hostility between the communities has trickled down to manifest in these innocent children lives. Therefore, this is an opportunity to boot out such perception and beliefs, and adopt the friendship mentality and treat everyone as a neighbor. Engagement of children in peace learning lessons enables the child to grow with a tolerance mentality.
My joy was when i witnessed friends by the end of the first day, moreover from different schools. This made the twinning activity easier for the team, the children had set the pace and trend. Twinning is an activity that seeks to establish new rapports between children from both the Samburu and Turkana children, in this context. Such facilitates friendships, which helps build up future relationships between the friend’s parents and the community at large, at later stages. The activities had bonded the children together.
Pick of the day was a morning routine where children portrayed an outstanding character, that of being responsible. I witnessed a lot of children who collected lost items such as uniforms, plates, money and more items and presented them to the teachers, and I am happy to say no child went home bringing a claim of a lost item.
This is a step towards peace and such a trait will eventually form part of their responsible growth process, averting situations of cattle rustling. Responsible children are responsible adults.
A remarkable gesture as the two girls from Samburu and Turkana Communities found a game that unites them. At the center is Charles Letitiya
Remarkable stories identified during the period
This is the bonding of two or more children, mostly from different schools in the name of promoting friendship. This friendship helps facilitate interaction, creating long lasting bonds and act as platform for the establishment of later steps such as holiday exchange programs and heifers for peace.
How swift it happens varies, to some it’s day 1, to others, it takes days. I witnessed two girls from different schools who already familiarized themselves with each other during the second day, while there were some who took their time and found friends close to the end of the peace camp. There is joy in giving the children time to identify each other through the different means available, such as games time, meals time and during their free time.
These friendships are intended to be the baseline for encouraging the families to meet and interact and the best get the opportunity to be part of heifers for peace program. Heifers for peace – is an initiative to cement the bond between these friend’s families for their efforts to know each other, hence the effort by CPI Kenya to gift them a heifer that the families will share. Such creates sustained friendships with the parents especially with improved livestock breed facilitated by the heifers for peace program, which is a positive social-economic dimension.
The twinning activity especially for children who study at Nachola Primary school (host for the intercommunity Peace Camp) encouraged some parents to visit, to meet their children’s friends. In one instance, one parent offered to take her child’s friend for a visit to her home and get some gifts. The readiness of the parents was amazing, such is an important prospect from their children’ effort to make peace with children from other schools.
Frankline’s mother realized he had made two friends David and Anderson, who happen to come from Lesirikan and Ngilai primary schools respectively. She presented them with gifts; a chicken, biscuits and soda to David and two bunches of vegetables and capsicum.
This was an outstanding case as the parents of the girl presented a milk bow while promising a sheep to her friend.
- The transformed cook
This is Lesampei from Lesirikan, who was part of the support staff working at the kitchen. He has never been to Nachola before, scared of the violence in the region. He said he understood the region as a bad place, “walikuwa wanasema Nachola na mbaya, hakuna security”. His conviction had derived from the pervasive stories in his native land about the people from Nachola. He mentioned to me that his perception about the region has changed, having being through the program as well, he has been able to learn from the children. He also happened to meet Richard, Nachola chief who offered his a bunch of vegetables, while he promised more. Lesampei made plans to visit a fellow cook’s village sometime later. He had experienced personal transformation.
CPI Kenya organized peace camps are not only meant for the children, despite being the target, but it motivates the team to always engage interested persons in the community who at most cases experience life changing experiences while attending the event.
From the skepticism, the life changing moment with the kids, to the desire of attending the next stage of the peace building process, these form part of the transformation process. It is through these tough, simple and enjoyable voyages we experience personal and social transformation, understanding that we are in the peace process and nothing should hold you back. My experience in Nachola introduced me to the perception that, CPI Kenya through its unique and reliable children’s approach, it is possible to effect change in the northern part of the country. It all starts with a smile, peace does not always need only sit in with diplomats or powerful officials, there are many ways to drive a snake out of the hole, hence many ways to conflict transformation, restore peace and drive out bigotry.
Viva CPI Kenya, viva peace.
Working with children for a peaceful tomorrow.