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Photo: Community Albums

RISK REDUCTION

KENYA

Better prepared

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IKE many churches, charities and non-governmental organisations, The Salvation Army was caught by surprise when violence broke out across Kenya following national elections in 2007. Seemingly out of nothing, approximately 1,300 people were killed and 600,000 displaced. Despite being caught off-guard, Salvation Army personnel – employees, soldiers, officers and friends – did what they could, opening the gates of their compounds for people looking for shelter and safety. They assisted in camps that were set up for people displaced by the violence and worked with the Red Cross and other groups. In the run-up to the next elections in 2013, preparations were put in place to deal with the outcome of renewed unrest. Supported by International Emergency Services, a ‘conflict preparedness’ workshop took place in Nairobi. Delegates explored the root causes of past problems – including inter-tribe difficulties – and identified the locations with a high potential for conflict. They analysed local capacities for protection,

by Damaris Frick and Elise Belcher described the relationships between groups in the weeks leading up to the coming elections and created emergency checklists for families, communities and institutions. In addition to preparing and equipping 20 locations in hotspot areas for the potential sheltering of people fleeing from violence, many excellent peace-promotion initiatives took place. Nairobi Central Corps Band, for instance, led a march for peace that finished with a rally, organised by several organisations, to promote peace. More than a million people were estimated to be on the streets that day! Local initiatives included smaller peace marches with banners and the distribution of preparedness checklists. Throughout, The Salvation Army worked in collaboration with other stakeholders and became an active member at coordination meetings. When the request was made for ‘safe centres’ to be prepared in various slum areas, The

‘It was powerful to see people who could be divided by territorial or tribal lines praying for peace together’ 1 | ALL THE WORLD |

JU LY–SEPTEM BER 2017

Above: a Muslim girl who was invited to participate in the ‘song for peace’ records a solo part

Salvation Army was the only organisation able to offer support, with corps (church) halls turned into coordination hubs for safe shelter and planned distribution points. As it transpired, they were not needed in 2013 because the election was largely peaceful, but the threat of violent protests remained. As a result of The Salvation Army’s good work and coordination during the build-up to the election, it was then asked to take on psychosocial and practical support responsibilities after the Westgate shopping mall attack in 2013 and the Garissa college attack in 2015. This year in August there will be elections again and The Salvation Army in both Kenyan territories (Kenya East and Kenya West), supported by International Emergency Services and International Development Services, is planning to take efforts even further. A workshop attended by 50 delegates from all across Kenya considered the


Photo: Community Albums

KENYA

Left: a young boy mobilises his community to promote peace, as part of ongoing preelection peace-building activities; above: Salvation Army officers from different territories and tribes pray for each other

lessons that had been learned from the previous years. In one session discussions centred around how tribalism, biases and prejudices contributed to conflict, with delegates learning together that they – and people in their communities – actively have to choose not to let these differences trigger conflict, but to work together to build peace. At the end of the day people were asked to write a peace prayer or poem which they then read to someone from a different tribe. It was powerful to see people who could be divided by territorial or tribal lines praying together for peace in their country and speaking peace over each other. As in 2013, the territories are preparing safe locations in potential hotspot areas but the wider peace-building efforts have been increased significantly. The initial results have been extremely exciting and positive, as communities are joining with The Salvation Army

to promote unity. A ‘song for peace’, written by children across the country, uses different tribal languages, and has contributions from children who are blind, others who live on the streets, some who are Muslims, some at school, some living without families – all to show through words and music that ‘everyone is somebody’ and ‘Kenya is home’. The song and its accompanying video deliver a powerful message of peace and unity from the youngest members of society. Look out for the final music video on Salvation Army social media. This peace-building initiative has been supported by a partner organisation, Community Albums (www.communityalbums.com). Other activities include school competitions, sports activities, peace messages on car stickers and banners, sermons, Bible studies and marches. The elections in 2007 left Kenyans traumatised, shocked and ashamed. And

the rest of the world was amazed that something like this could happen in what seems to be (and is) a beautiful tourist destination populated by lovely, warm, kind people (they are!). Nobody knows for certain what this year’s elections might bring. People are worried and there have been signs of violence already. But others also express hope. The Salvation Army is not content to just hope and wait, praying that all will be well (although it will certainly surround the whole situation with prayer). More than that, it is actively setting an example and pointing the way to peace.

Damaris Frick is Field Officer for The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Services; Elise Belcher is Community Development Coordinator (Africa) for International Development Services J UL Y – S E P TE M BE R 2017 | ALL THE WORLD |

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Better Prepared  

From All The World (July-September 2017) editiion