As Kenya’s election day rapidly approaches, the world waits with bated breath. The country’s first election since the post-election violence of 2008 and the adoption of a new constitution in 2010 will take place on March 4. Uhuru Kenyatta, the presidential candidate now holding second place in the race, is currently facing charges before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, specifically for inciting violence after the last election. In a strange coincidence, Kenyatta’s trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is scheduled for April 10 and 11, coinciding with the runoff election (if none of the 8 candidates receives over 50% of the vote) on April 11. Nowhere does the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” hold more truth than in Kenya at this moment.
Kenyan Friends (Quakers) have mobilized to head off anticipated violence. Working around the clock, groups like Friends Church Peace Teams, Friends United Meeting, and the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams have been training election observers and citizen reporters, as well as holding reconciliation workshops in the most volatile regions.
Getry Agizah, the FCPT coordinator, exemplifies the dedication of Kenyan Quakers. Two weeks ago, she participated in a planning meeting all day Wednesday, rode home by motorcycle on rough dirt roads, and gave birth to her baby a few hours later. By Thursday afternoon, she was on the phone coordinating the dozens of field workers who are out doing violence prevention. And Getry is just one of many dedicated Friends.
FCPT and AGLI have organized 85 seminars for 6,000 participants to educate people about the new constitution and train people to participate in the political process, with the belief that people who understand and get involved in the political process will not as easily resort to violence. Facilitators find that participants are eager to learn about the new constitution and to participate when they understand it.
While Kenyan Friends hope to prevent violence altogether, if violence does occur after either of the elections, “FCPT/AGLI will be ready to lead listening sessions for those involved in the violence, including all sides in any conflict.” They will also seek to bring the various sides together so they can talk to one another rather than reacting with revenge and more violence.
Kenyan Friends are working and praying to bring principles and practices of peacemaking to their country. May we learn from these soulful leaders working for peace, and keep FCPT/AGLI and the Kenyan elections in our hearts and in our prayers.