Moving Kenya forward: Rotary members seek to heal wounds
Rotary club honors three for promoting peace and helping others during post-election violence
(NAIROBI, Kenya – 7 March 2008) -- Welcoming the peace deal signed last week to end the post-election crisis, Kenyan Rotary club members met yesterday with diplomats, civic and professional leaders to discuss practical ideas for healing the nation after the post-election crisis.
The Rotary Club of Nairobi hosted a panel discussion to talk about the role of civil society in the reconciliation and recovery process, as part of the club’s annual World Understanding and Peace Day luncheon.
Moderated by national TV presenter Michael Oyier (KTN), the panel consisted of UN-Habitat Executive Director Anne Tibaijuka, Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo (Rtd), who was the IGAD Chief Mediator in the Sudanese peace negotiations, clinical psychologist Dr. Gladys Mwiti, BBC East Africa correspondent Adam Mynott and Vimal Shah, representing the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.
Following the disputed December election, riots along ethnic lines erupted across Kenya causing more than 350,000 people to flee their homes, and killing at least 1,000.
Though the Parliament will soon ratify the power-sharing agreement brokered by former UN General-Secretary Kofi Annan, the country will feel the socio-economic effects of the crisis for years to come.
The panelists agreed that the political agreement is just the beginning of the reconciliation process that needs to take place.
Mrs. Tibaijuka stressed the importance to deal with the fundamental causes of inequity, while Gen. Sumbeiywo called for a better education system, an economic "Marshall Plan" and for Kenyans to reach out to their neighbours.
According to Dr. Gladys 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 post-election violence. We should concentrate on healing and counselling,” she added.
BBC journalist Mynott said a truth and reconciliation commission must be established and no crime should be left uninvestigated. Mynott said he was impressed with the remarkable spirit of the Kenyan people, their reliance and willingness to get on with their lives.
Following the panel discussion, the Rotary Club of Nairobi presented three citizens, who carried out extraordinary actions in the period of post-election violence, with the “Amazing Kenyans Peace Award”. The award 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 socio-economic gains made so far. As tensions were high, Nthenge put himself at risk and inspired many others. By his action, he proved to be a man of patience, wisdom and impressive courage
Alice Auma Opoto of Kibera, member of the Faida Karanja self help group, who helped the displaced by sending shot victims to the hospital, raising funds for funeral expenses and housing families until they found other shelters.
“We are proud to honor these three amazing Kenyans who have gone against all odds to selflessly contribute towards peace during the recent crisis,” said Nairobi Rotarian Nick Hutchinson.
Rotary’s response to the post-election crisis was presented by Dr. Dan Poenaru. He said Rotarians swung into action after the violence erupted in the slums of Nairobi and the Western part of the country. They mobilized local clubs and resources and appealed to the international Rotary network to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
Partnering with the Kenya Red Cross and other NGOs, more than 150 Rotary volunteers from Nairobi, Nakuru, Naivasha, Kisumu, Vihiga and Mombasa have been actively involved in providing hands-on assistance to the victims of violence, regardless of their ethnic or political affiliation.
Rotary’s disaster relief efforts included a big donation drive in Nairobi and free medical care and medicines for the sick and injured. Nearly 850 ShelterBoxes –filled with a tent and materials designed to enable up to 10 people to survive for six months—were provided from the UK to set up camps for internally displaced people.
Poenaru said recovery efforts will include bus transportation for those who want to return home, assistance in rebuilding lives and homes, and a micro-credit program or other entrepreneurial scheme. Rotary clubs are also working with local groups to provide counselling and to address the underlying causes of the conflict.
“This is a massive undertaking, but I’m optimistic. Given time and the opportunity, we will be able to ride out this storm,” said Past District Governor Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala, the regional coordinator of the Rotary Foundation.
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For more information, please visit www.rotary.9200.org , www.shelterbox.org or www.rotary.org
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace. Paul P. Harris founded the world’s first service club 1905 in Chicago. Today, 1.2 million men and women belong to nearly 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical regions. In Kenya, nearly 1000 members from 33 clubs work on community project addressing many of today’s most critical issues, such as poverty, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS, and water.