Civil Peace Service: Fostering dialogue and reducing violence – strengthening actors in civil society

Project description

Title: Civil Peace Service Programme: Fostering dialogue and reducing violence – strengthening actors in civil society
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Kenya
Overall term: 2008 to 2018

Context

Kenya celebrated 50 years of independence at the end of 2013. Throughout these five decades, the country’s development and democratisation have been impeded by conflict, poor governance and corruption. The violent clashes that erupted in the wake of the 2007/08 elections brought the country to the brink of civil war – claiming more than 1,000 lives, leaving thousands injured and displacing over 600,000 people.

Highlights of the process of change that ensued were reforms to the constitution (2010) and to the judiciary. However, no progress has been made with regard to reforming the security sector and land rights. There is hardly any political will in evidence to deal with historical injustices or to eradicate corruption and impunity, especially in connection with the post-election unrest. At the same time, conflicts over land and other issues have been on the rise. Responses by the government have proven either minimal or marked by excessive violence. Since 2013, actions taken to repress political opposition, civil society organisations and human rights defenders have also been increasing. The accompanying power struggles now present a new set of challenges for Kenya in view of the elections scheduled for 2017.

Objective

The root causes of violent conflict are addressed, thereby strengthening the processes of reconciliation, peacebuilding and democratisation in Kenya.

Approach

The Civil Peace Service programme (CPS) took up work in response to the unrest following Kenya’s presidential elections in 2007/08. The programme seconds experts to advise Kenyan institutions and supports their work through subsidies. In keeping with the principles of holistic conflict resolution, it integrates various levels of conflict and a range of approaches in its operations. The programme’s primary partners are civil society organisations, including Kituo Cha Sheria, Muslims for Human Rights, Haki Yetu, the Community Education and Empowerment Centre and the Peace and Development Network Trust Kenya.

CPS provides support for the implementation of the constitution along with the reforms required to this end. It strengthens the reconciliation process and contributes to establishing sustainable structures for resolving conflicts in a non-violent manner. The programme fosters dialogue among various stakeholders and builds the capacities needed for non-violent conflict resolution. It attaches particular importance to involving all affected population groups in processes of social, political and economic opinion-forming. Furthermore, CPS experts offer assistance in designing measures that are sensitive to conflict.

By engaging in such processes, people in the target regions increase their capacity for self-organisation above and beyond ethnic and other lines of conflict. Additionally, they are empowered to begin assuming ownership in shaping efforts geared to the non-violent resolution of resource-related conflicts. These activities are based on the premise that integrative and participatory opinion-forming processes lead to transparent decisions which accommodate the interests of all stakeholder groups and that positive experiences encourage people to uphold and continue pursuing what has been achieved.

Results

  • The partner organisation Kituo Cha Sheria is now a well-known institution within national and international transitional justice networks. It has facilitated involvement of victims of the unrest following the presidential elections in investigations conducted by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission and in proceedings by the International Criminal Court. Kituo Cha Sheria strengthens the national reconciliation and healing process by fostering dialogue among victims, perpetrators and political decision-makers and promoting non-violent settlement of conflicts of interest.
  • In Likoni, a division of Mombasa County, dialogue between the local population and political decision-makers has been strengthened. To assert their interests more effectively, fishermen in Likoni have set up a cooperative and are now also actively involving women who sell their fish in decision-making processes. People at risk of displacement due to the construction of the Dongo Kundu bypass are standing up for their rights in full compliance with the practices of non-violent conflict resolution.
  • Continuing interventions in Burnt Forest have nurtured peaceful and inclusive coexistence among the inhabitants of this region. Events now take place in Kiswahili, the region’s only common language. People of different ethnicities have resumed commercial trading activities and have launched joint cooperatives. Women here have founded a cross-ethnic self-help group and registered a local organisation comprising members of different ethnic groups tasked with representing the region’s interests externally.
  • An early warning system has been established. Covering many areas, it allows for timely intervention in cases of emerging conflict on the part of partner organisations, local civil actors or, in individual cases, state institutions. Early intervention in places like Kibera, a slum in Nairobi, prevented inter-ethnic conflicts in the direct lead-up to the 2013 elections.

  • In Kijipwa and other settlements along the coast, the population is increasingly resolving conflicts without resorting to violence. Today people know more about land rights and benefit from better planned interventions, improved stakeholder coordination and access to political decision-makers. This change in approach has encouraged them to take part in corresponding activities.