By JULIUS SIGEIjuliussigei@gmail.comPosted Saturday, February 26 2011 at 21:00
- Religious leaders say new alliance will boost peace building efforts but others warn against banking hope on personal ‘friendships’
Since the reintroduction of multiparty politics in Kenya in 1992, the Rift Valley has been the epicentre of ethnic violence.
And in 2008 it bore the brunt of the post-election violence that claimed more than 1,300 lives and displaced 600,000 people across the country.
But the political alliance involving Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto in the run-up to next year’s General Election has stirred hopes the region might not witness the skirmishes it has been associated with every election time.
The two leaders are among six people International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is seeking to have charged over the post-election violence.
A number of religious and political leaders hope their peace building efforts will blossom with the political goodwill between the two traditional combatants — the Kikuyu and Kalenjin.
“The main actors are on the ground but the coming in of politicians will speed up the cohesion we have been building. Peace is fluid, but I don’t see any sign of violence now,” said Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir whose area of jurisdiction includes the Burnt Forest hotspot.
He, however, added that political camaraderie was not the only ingredient for peace in the area.
His sentiments were echoed by Bishop Abraham Gitu of the Apostolic Faith Church who added that the security apparatus still had to be vigilant and anybody making inflammatory statements ought to be punished.
“There is a very good chance for peace. Other politicians might fight the alliance but here we feel it is going a long way to cement good neighbourliness among the villagers from the two communities,” said Bishop Gitu who chairs the Likia Beyond Peace and Conflict Resolution Council.
While lauding the alliance for enhancing peace in the clash-prone region, Kuresoi Member of Parliament Zakayo Cheruiyot, however, called for more to be done.
“Ultimately peace in Nakuru is not dependent on individuals. It is the government’s determination to address the land question, poverty and perceived unfairness in security operations,” said the former permanent security in charge of Internal Security.
Peace initiatives, he added, should incorporate all elected leaders from the clash-prone areas so that complaints that crime is being punished in a partisan manner do not arise.
“They do that in countries like Tanzania and Malaysia,” he said.
But Moi Uiversity law lecturer Kipchumba Murkomen said that politicising peace building would not bear fruit.
“The ethnic clashes in the Rift Valley have been caused by deep-seated problems like historical land injustices and any knee-jerk responses which do not involve the ordinary people will not succeed.
“The Uhuru-Ruto alliance is a mere charade intended to defer the problems through a cosmetic alliance, a vehicle for selfish political ends,” he said on the phone.
Also cynical was Kabianga University College lecturer Herbert Kerre who questioned the place of the other communities residing in the province.
“The solution to peace building lies in strengthening institutions. You don’t promote peace between certain communities while antagonising others. Those left out will develop a siege mentality and this will not augur well [for peace],” said Mr Kerre, adding that peace in the Rift Valley should be seen in the broader context of peace in the rest of the country.
Energy assistant minister Magerer Lang’at, whose constituency covers the cosmopolitan Londiani and Kipkelion areas, warned that peace built with political undertones, would not last.
He said the new Constitution had well-laid down ways of dispensing peace and justice and the route to genuine peace lay in its implementation.
“At the root of the 2007/8 post-election violence was the electoral malpractices brought about by an improperly constituted electoral body. Now instead of implementing the new Constitution which seeks to address exactly that we are busy galvanising numbers to defeat the will of the people,” he said.
But Nakuru County Council chairman John Murigu Kamau was confident that there would be peace because of their coming together because public opinion is malleable.
“While we agree there are issues that remain unresolved, you cannot ignore the fact that the masses are gullible and will follow what their community leaders will tell them,” said Mr Murigu.