Josephine Lengapian is one of the beneficiaries of a children peacebuilding program targeting the Samburu and Pokot of Longewan and Amaiya villages, an initiative by Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPI Kenya). Josephine shared her story of pain and misery experienced by her family due to ethnic animosity that existed between the Samburu and neighboring Pokot community. Her son, Sangaire, who will be studying for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2018, was the link between Josephine’s family and their Pokot friends. Sangaire, encountered Silai, a Pokot boy, in 2012 during Children Peace Camp and their friendship has trickled down to not only their immediate family but larger community. The impact has been especially noticeable in the increased success of Josephine’s business.
Narrating how life was before the sprout intercommunity friendships, Josephine says, “We were so afraid. Both Pokot and Samburu were very afraid of each other. The market in our village was only accessible by the Samburu and on the other hand, we could not access the market within the Pokot community. Together with my family, we abandoned our farms and settled in town for safety in case of any attack from the neighboring community.”
Josephine brightens up as she shares about a gift she received from her Pokot friends of a female goat, which has given birth 5 times so far. She concludes saying “Today I am not afraid of the Pokots, I know they are people like us and my friends on the Pokot side are not afraid of Samburu people either.” Due to the relationships that have been built through children, people from both communities are able to access resources and food for their children. As a business woman, she is proud of how much she is able to do business with her Pokot counterparts. She refers to herself as the “Mpesa of Pokots.” Justifying this, she says that her Pokot friends together with their networks send money to her through Mpesa for her to purchase goods for them. They then make arrangements for how to transport it and sell during their market days. Josephine estimates that her Pokot friends contribute to a substantial 50% of business returns.
Commenting on the impact of the peace program, she says, there was an immense contribution of the friendship between the children through CPI Kenya’s children peacebuilding program, as it opened the avenues for her business to expand beyond the Samburu communities.
On the other hand, Madam Evelyn, who is the Deputy Head Teacher of Plesian Primary School and a mother of six, is a Pokot beneficiary of CPI Kenya. Her daughter who is now in high school participated in Children Peace Camp where she made Samburu friends. It is through the friendship of the children that the families and the communities were connected after years of fighting.
Evelyn expounds on her changed attitude and behavior: “When I visited my friends in Samburu community for the first time, at first I was stressed and afraid of spending the night at my Samburu friend’s place; but in the morning when I woke up and did not hear of any incidents, I relaxed. Since then, together with my Samburu friends, we have been visiting each other voluntarily and have also been involved in each other’s lives in a deeper way. For instance, my friend lost her husband and my family went to console her for some few days.”
Remembering how the situation was in 2012 before CPI Kenya’s intervention, Evelyn gets emotional, sharing, “Initially I could not even look at the direction of Samburu from my house. I was really afraid. It was in 2012, the fighting was still going on and it was really bad. I could hear gunshots from my house and when I woke up to listen properly; I saw some lights that looked like flashlights only to realize it was bullets sparking lights targeting a Pokot homestead. The Samburu warriors had attacked one of the Pokot’s homesteads. When we woke up we heard news that a Pokot homestead was surrounded by Samburu warriors at night and all the animals were stolen and the warriors killed over 10 people including men, women and children as young as 2 years old. A pregnant woman was also killed during that incident.”
However, she brightened when expressing that the children peacebuilding program had brought a ray of hope. “The approach has yielded multiple results. If my children had not interacted with the Samburu children I don’t think we could have yielded these many results,” she told me.
We have had short term peace from other initiatives but today, as a result of the relationship that has been built through inter community friendships, the community has taken initiative to return stolen animals an indication that the peace with the children is long term. Additionally, the community members have taken upon themselves to handle conflict nonviolently. “My hope is that all the neighboring community members who are yet to experience the children peacebuilding program may get an opportunity so that we can have more relationships through children and friendship,” Evelyn concluded. The people involved in the peace program are now ambassadors of peace. They spread the wonderful experiences they have with their friends, and the impact is widening.
The two experiences of the Samburu and Pokot women represent those of many others who have benefitted from the children peacebuilding program. Relationships through intercommunity friendship has become a unifying factor for not only the children directly engaged but their larger families as well. For instance, Caleb, who is a student in Longewan Secondary School says that through his participation he has been able to influence an astounding 91 members of his larger family. This example shows how much impact a single child who participates in the children peace building program can have on the community.