After years of bitter disputes, violence and displacements among the communities of Baringo County, situated in the north-west of Kenya, Creators of Peace was invited to run Peace Circles for the women. A team came to the ‘Living Peace’ conference to share a case study on their project. (more information can be found through http://www.iofc.org/emotional-apology-pokot-women-kenya)
Mediatrix Masava, Project Coordinator and facilitator started:
‘My journey in peace building began in earnest in the year 2007-2008 after the post election violence, whereby I had a dark spot of hatred within my heart. I hated the Kalenjin for what some of them did to the Kikuyus in Kenya. I particularly remember one day when I visited a village in the Rift Valley Province destroyed a few weeks previously. The only building left standing was the church. Homes, shops, the only school—everything was gone. The normally busy rural area almost deserted. I saw few people, but many burned and deserted homesteads and fields. After that experience and others, I became convinced that working on development without working on peace issues did not make sense, because in that village 30 years of development had been destroyed in one terrible night. I came to understand how closely peace and development are linked.
In the year 2009 I made a pledge to myself that I will be the change that I want to see in my country Kenya. And that is how I met many courageous, creative people, working to bring about stability, an end to violence, and a re-establishment of healthy relationships through Creators of Peace.
The Baringo County project of Creators of Peace was launched and again I had a mix of feelings, since I have never worked in Baringo, and I was anxious about what lay ahead of us. At some point we almost gave up but we wanted to give peace a chance in Baringo County. This meant that I had to sacrifice much of my time and make frequent visits to Baringo to ensure that the project ran well. We were promised many things, some of which never happened, but to me what really matters are the fruits at the end of the journey. I have learnt to be patient, with the way things are, especially when dealing with politicians, and also to never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
Elizabeth Kipsang took up the story:
‘I am Mother of five and a peace ambassador for the Creators of Peace Kenya. In the month of August 2014, I was invited to take part in a Peace Circle that took place in the town of Kabarnet. After the ‘peace in practice’ session, deep in my heart I felt the need to give peace a chance in my County by uniting women together through Creators of Peace. It was not easy because some of the women saw it as a challenge to try to bring all the women from the three communities (the Tugen, Illchamus and the Pokot) together. Finally, after we consulted together, we saw the need of the three communities being trained before we could accept our certificates as participants in Creators of Peace Circles.
Relationships between the Tugen and Pokot in Baringo North Constituency, has for many years been marred by cycles of violent clashes, cattle raids and revenge attacks. It has led to displacement of many people from their homes due to escalation of hostilities.The most affected at the time were the Tugen Community. On 27th May 2015, an extraordinary apology was made in Marigat. Women from the three communities Pokot, Tugen and Illchamus reconciled, and committed to work together and make peace a reality in the entire county.
The Pokot women made a bold step by coming forward publically and making the unusual admission that they have shed innocent blood of people and displaced women and children from their indigenous lands. Women from the communities of Tugen and Illchamus were remorseful and shed a lot of tears because they could not believe that Pokot women could make that step of apologizing. This came just like a miracle because I saw violence coming to an end.
I was full of emotions and I felt that a new heaven on earth has been opened up. Peace and harmony filled my heart and I developed a positive attitude towards the Pokot community.
One of the transformations that took place was travelling to Pokot, since I had many stories of how the Pokot community behave towards the Tugen, and when I got to meet them they accepted that we need to work together, sit down with local leaders and deliberate on issues concerning the two communities. I need not have worried.
The entire Tugen community and their leaders, including the National and County Government, are in harmony and enjoying the existing peace through the reconciliation made by the women through facilitation of Creator of Peace Circles.
I can now tell my children to inter–marry, do business by purchasing a piece of land in Pokot, have cultural festivals together and also learn in their institutions together.
Moving forward our churches can organize crusades in their place and also invite them to our churches.
Through our learning concerning endless forgiveness, inner peace, listening to others, peace in practice and story sharing my community can now implement the same.’
Finally the Pokot member of the team shared:
‘My names are Mary Cheman Kuket a community volunteer worker from the Pokot Community. I am a window and a mother of seven children (four girls and three boys) and I have adopted four rescued children from retrogressive FGM cultural practices of the Pokot community.
Baringo County is one of the forty seven counties found in Kenya. Baringo is inhabited by three ethnic communities namely; the Tugen, the Ilchamus and the Pokots. The Tugen are mixed farmers while the Ilchamus practice agro-pastoralism and the Pokots are mainly pastoralists.
Over a long time there has been conflict between the three communities living in Baringo County resulting from a scramble for resources. These resources include pasture and water, and there are boundary disputes. This led to frequent conflicts between these communities that resulted in loss of human lives, destruction of properties, displacement of people and market closures. All these had negative impact on the social and economic activities of these three communities with women and small children being most affected.
It was this suffering by women and children that touched my heart and prompted me to start interventions with an aim of ensuring the three communities lived harmoniously. These interventions included mobilizing Pokot women to talk to their husbands and young men to stop invading the neighbouring communities for cattle rustling. Through Creators of Peace I managed to lead the Pokot women on 27th May 2015 to make an apology to Ilchamus and Tugen women on behalf of the Pokot Community. Through these interventions there was forgiveness among the three communities that resulted in reduced conflicts leading to improved social economic activities among the communities.
For sustainability of the created peace I would like to urge the Pokot community to embrace peace and take their children to school. Inter marriage among the three communities should be encouraged.
As a creator of peace I always tell my children about forgiveness, inner peace, listening to others, story sharing and above all to accommodate others. Finally I would like to make peace real in Baringo County.’
In March 2017, violence again flared in the Pokot region of Baringo County. The Creators of Peace team have had to suspend their programme until security is restored and roads reopened. They are determined to keep spreading the message of ‘peace starts with me’, and have follow-up programmes also planned in those areas where they have already run Peace Circles. Funds are needed to help them continue in this work.