In the wake of the 2007 electoral violence, state and non-state actors have initiated peace interventions that sought to advance Kenya’s conflict transformation. The violence, which was characterized by organized ethnopolitical killings, internal displacement of persons, and instances of sexual and gender-based violence, disrupted political stability and brought the country to the brink of a precipice. The National Accord, signed in February 2008 due to the African Union-led mediation, nevertheless paved the way for peace and stability in the country. In order to enhance conflict transformation, the Kofi Annan-led mediation team asserted the need for structural, institutional, and constitutional reforms that would help in resolving historical injustices that have suppressed the quest for peaceful elections in Kenya.
While the AU-mandated intervention asserted the centrality of regional actors in mediating in states experiencing conflict, the role played by other state and non-state actors—both international and local—in peace interventions elicited the need for the country to establish an infrastructure for peace that would constrain future relapse into electoral violence, especially in the period following the signing of the Accord.
As a result, key actors, including peacebuilding Inter-Governmental Organizations like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the business and private sector, faith-based organizations (FBOs), and women-based organizations, initiated interventions with a view to reconciling conflicting communities. Advocacy and activism agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), financing agencies such as the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UNPF), and media and communication agencies collaborated in programs that sought to advance conflict transformation. In addition, the judicial interventions of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) served towards advancing restorative and retributive justice for victims and perpetrators of violence and other historical injustices.
National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management
After the 2007 violence, the state re-invigorated conflict transformation interventions in the country, especially through the National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management (NSC). While efforts for such infrastructure had been initiated earlier in 2002, the NSC had failed to establish structured peace interventions across the country. The establishment of district peace and development committees earlier in 1995 had helped in resolving conflicts in the north frontier districts, especially in Wajir. The need for replication of such committees was hence defined as central in constraining conflicts, following earlier incidences of land-based and ethnopolitical violence during the 1992 and 1997 elections.
After the signing of the Accord, the NSC, working in collaboration with the UNDP, initiated District Peace Committees (DPCs) within conflict hotspot zones, especially in Rift Valley, coastal regions, and central regions. The DPCs were equally devolved to the grassroots as Local Peace Committees (LPCs). The DPCs and LPCs, constituting membership from the conflicting communities, religious groups, youth and women groups, as well as government representatives, would converge to deliberate on issues relating to peace and reconciliation. Working in collaboration with other non-state actors, especially NGOs such as such as CEWARN, the NSC further established programs that sought to build their capacity on issues relating to early warning and response, conflict prevention, conflict management, and conflict resolution. These DPCs—later renamed County Peace (and Security) Committees after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010—helped to strengthen the infrastructure for peace within intervention spaces, especially in the Rift Valley, Nyanza, central regions, coastal regions, and Nairobi.
Uwiano Platform for Peace
While the NSC was central in advancing Kenya’s infrastructure for peace, other key state agencies, especially the NCIC, partnered in programs that sought to advance conflict transformation. In collaboration with the NSC, UNDP, PeaceNet, UN Women, and IEBC, the NCIC implemented the Uwiano Platform for Peace, which was essentially a conflict prevention strategy that brought state and non-state agencies into discourses on national cohesion and integration. The Uwiano platform equally engaged media houses under the Kenya Media for Peace Network, especially Nation Media Group, Royal Media Services, and Standard Group Limited, in peace messaging and further established a digital platform where citizens would report instances of conflict, which would be channeled to the NSC for action. Through the Uwiano platform, peace monitors were recruited, trained in early warning, conflict prevention, and management skills, and were later deployed across intervention spaces, especially towards the 2013 elections.
Peace Connector Projects
Connector projects further strengthened the infrastructure for peace. FBOs, in particular the Catholic Church Diocese of Eldoret under the leadership of Reverend Cornelius Korir in conjunction with the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC), initiated peace connector projects—elsewhere called peace dividends projects—especially in the North-Rift region where the 2007 violence was highly concentrated. Since the Catholic Church and the CJPC have been involved in peace programs across the North-Rift region since the 1992 ethnic clashes, the 2007 violence greatly demonstrated how grassroots communities in the region had, over time, built trust with the Church. At the outset of the violence, the local communities found refuge in the cathedrals and would further benefit from medical and non-medical aid through interventions initiated by the Church in collaboration with other non-state actors, especially the Kenya Red Cross. In order to strengthen the infrastructure for peace, the Church initiated connector projects, which involved rebuilding schools, roads, and bridges. The CJPC engaged local communities, especially through LPCs, in building the connector projects thereby enhancing their reconciliation and integration.
Interventions by Women-Based Organizations (WBOs) further enhanced the infrastructure for peace. The Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL) based in Eldoret, for instance, initiated programs that sought to advance the agency of women in peace interventions in Kenya. Women were largely affected by the 2007 violence as they suffered from sexual and gender-based violence. Despite their victimhood, women were relegated from peace and conflict interventions because peace, conflict, and security issues were—due to the patriarchal nature of the Kenyan society—defined as the province of men. The RWPL hence brought women to the center stage of peace and conflict discourses in the North-Rift region. By engaging women, RWPL enhanced their participation in peace discourses, especially in Eldoret and Burnt Forest. RWPL would equally collaborate with other agencies like USAID in building connector projects, especially the peace connector market in Burnt Forest, as well as in providing seed capital to women-led small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Reversing the Gains
After the elections, however, peace interventions across the country were constrained by challenges relating to funding. Financiers, especially the UNDP and UNPF, limited or entirely withdrew their funding, especially towards the NSC’s infrastructure for peace program with the DPCs. The failure of the state to initiate sustainable funding for conflict transformation interventions reversed the gains made towards strengthening the infrastructure for peace. This constrained the conflict transformation agenda and partly contributed to the relapse into violence experienced during the 2017 elections.
Although the 2013 elections were quite peaceful, the relapse into violence in 2017 despite key institutional reforms, especially of the electoral body, IEBC, and the judiciary, demonstrates the weakening infrastructure for peace. The killings witnessed in Nairobi, Migori, and Kisumu further demonstrated that the country is still at risk of falling back into the cycle of electoral violence.
Tensions and Rivalries
While the March 2018 Handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila Odinga resolved the 2017 political tensions after the elections, instances of political antagonisms between the two contending political formations in the 2022 elections, that is, the Azimio-One Kenya Coalition Alliance and Kenya Kwanza Alliance, demonstrate the need to strengthen the infrastructure for peace.
Despite assurances that the 2022 elections will be peaceful, early warning signs indicate that violence, which was initially in earmarked hotspots, has devolved across other counties. Instances of violence witnessed during the by-elections , as well as the political intolerance in campaign meetings in Kisumu, Busia, Githurai, Embakasi, Mandera, and Garissa, demonstrate the need for the state to deploy pre-emptive interventions across the country in order to forestall any likely violence during the 2022 elections, especially in the case of a disputed presidential election result.
Strengthening the I4P
Giessmann underscores that post-conflict states—as is the case with Kenya—relapse into conflict due to the lack of coherent infrastructures for peace. Kenya’s infrastructure for peace is not fully established despite the formulation of the national policy on peacebuilding and conflict management in 2014.
While the state through NSC, as well as other international and local non-state actors, has implemented peace programs, it is evident that there have been no sustainable structured peace programs in the country. There is evident piecemeal implementation of peace programs, with available data showing that these programs are largely implemented during elections, such as the relaunch of the Uwiano platform in March 2022. This is perhaps due to donor fatigue occasioned by the electoral violence cycle experienced in the country, which reverse the gains made in improving the infrastructure for peace.
It is therefore critical for all state and non-state actors to work together towards strengthening the infrastructure for peace. Different peace actors have different capacities, resources, and challenges, and serve different functions. In strengthening the infrastructure for peace, there is the need for these actors to develop inter- and intra-systemic relationships in their interventions, with the NSC building a conducive environment where the peace actors would work together and provide needed synergies.
It is also important for interveners to build local capacities for peace actors through skills transfer, besides initiating income-generating programs as well as offering seed capital for the youth demographic that is mostly induced into participating in electoral violence due to unemployment. Furthermore, it is critical to mainstream gender-responsive interventions with a view to looping more women and WBOs into peace discourses. Due to the pre-election violence and political intolerance witnessed, the NSC may need to deploy early warning and pre-emptive interventions to forestall violence during the 2022 elections.