Moving Kenya forward: Rotarians seek to heal wounds
Two hundred Rotary volunteers went door-to-door in Nairobi on 10 January, asking the public to donate for the needy. Similar efforts were made in Mombasa and Kisumu. Photo by Dan Poenaru.
Welcoming the peace deal signed last week to end their country’s postelection crisis, Rotarians in Kenya met on 7 March with diplomats and civic and professional leaders to discuss practical ideas for healing the nation.
The Rotary Club of Nairobi hosted a panel discussion to talk about the role of civic society in the reconciliation and recovery process. The event, which was part of the club’s annual World Understanding and Peace Day luncheon, was held at the Hilton Nairobi.
Moderated by national TV presenter Michael Oyier of KTN, the panel consisted of UN-Habitat Executive Director Anne Tibaijuka; retired Lt. Gen. Lazaro Sumbeiywo, who was the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s chief mediator in the Sudanese peace negotiations; clinical psychologist Gladys Mwiti; BBC East Africa correspondent Adam Mynott; and Vimal Shah, representing the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.
Following the disputed December election, riots reflecting ethnic divisions erupted across Kenya. More than 350,000 people fled their homes, and at least 1,000 were killed.
Though last week’s reopened parliament is expected to soon ratify the power-sharing agreement brokered by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the country will feel the socioeconomic effects of the crisis for years to come.
The panelists concurred that the political agreement is just the beginning of the necessary reconciliation process.
Tibaijuka stressed the importance of dealing with the fundamental causes of inequity, while Sumbeiywo called for a better education system and an economic recovery plan akin to the Marshall Plan and urged Kenyans to reach out to their neighbors.
According to Mwiti, Kenyans are suffering from a massive depression. “We already had HIV, road traffic accidents, robbery, and violence, and now on top of that, the postelection violence. We should concentrate on healing and counseling,” she said.
Following the panel discussion, the Nairobi club presented its Amazing Kenyans Peace Award to three citizens who had performed extraordinary actions in the period of postelection violence. The recipients are:
- Dekha Ibrahim, co-founder and chair of the Concerned Citizens for Peace initiative, which launched a national media campaign to stop the violence, sent strong messages to political leaders to restore peace, and provided a platform for citizens and organizations to coordinate peace and justice work.
- Superintendent Joseph Musyoka Nthenge, a police officer who surprised many when he was caught on camera pleading with demonstrators to be patriotic and not to destroy the socioeconomic gains that had been made. With tensions high, he put himself at risk and inspired others, exhibiting patience, wisdom, and courage.
- Alice Auma Opoto, of the Faida Karanja self-help group, aided the displaced by sending gunshot victims to the hospital, raising funds for funeral expenses, and housing families until they found other shelters.