By Getry Agizah and Ezra Kigondu
I stayed happily in my marriage for 33 years. One evening as I was cleaning my bedroom I found a bottle under the bed. I picked it up and read the label. To my surprise I realized that it contained anti-retroviral drugs. I was shocked and tattered completely not knowing what to do. I sat on the bed confused just to be awakened by my husband entering in. Seeing what I was holding in my hand, he snatched it and became furious and chased me away. Luckily my sister came to my rescue. After being given information by a neighbor, she took me for testing and I was found to be HIV positive and was placed on drugs immediately. It took me time to accept to the reality and that deteriorated my health. I have been struggling with that condition for the last 13 years and I have never spoken to my husband nor have I forgiven him. Female HROC participant.
Overall objective of the project: To build an all-inclusive society that understands peace as a way of life and create a support network healing through trainings, dialogue and negotiation.
- Train both perpetrators and victims of violence
- Have an in-depth training with youth
- Include gender inclusivity in the trainings
Many communities in Kenya are faced with high levels of trauma and insecurity. Mt. Elgon is among the many communities which are struggling with the aftermath of tribal clashes which were the result of land disputes. The effects of the clashes in the region includes:
- School dropouts
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Sexually transmitted disease
- Forced and early marriages
- Child labor
Because of the many unresolved land issues, some of the aggrieved members of the community, under the leadership of one Wycliffe Matakwei, ganged up to defend their land, naming their group “Saboat Land Defense Force” (SLDF). The gang terrorized its own kinsmen who were perceived to be sympathizers of the government. Women and children were adversely affected by this violence because of their vulnerability. Hence the mortality rate among children under five is high because accessing medical facility is a nightmare for them. One out 10 women die during delivery due to lack of post-natal care and depend entirely on very inexperienced midwifes. The militia took hostage nearly all public facilities like schools, hospitals, and public offices rendering them inaccessible. As a result children did not go to school; there were early marriages. Things became out of hand during the 2007 election when the whole country experienced post-election violence. The gang took advantage of this and propelled their agenda without fear. In fact they controlled all activities in the region by forcing people to choose for parliament one of their leaders who was in prison. The government quickly intervened using the armed forces and resettled the displaced people. But they forgot to address the root causes. Four years later again violence erupted in Mt. Elgon. This time they changed shape by not going to hide in the forest but rather targeting individuals and certain locations. This has caused a lot of fear forcing people to leave their homes for safety.
With this community undergoing all these kinds of injustices, Transforming Community for Social Change/Friends Church Peace Teams did the following interventions:
- Trainings/workshops like :
- Alternative to Violence Program (AVP)
- Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC)
- Transformative mediation
- Listening sessions
- Community dialogues
A total of fourteen workshops were conducted including one mediation, seven HROC, and six AVP workshops. A total of 336 people were reached during the trainings with 182 males and 154 females. The choice of venue was based on areas that were hotspots and also points where small and light weapons proliferated from the neighboring countries. The participants for the training were:
- Victims and perpetrators
- The elders who blessed the militia
- The youths who were easy recruits of the militia group
- Women who used to cook for the militia
The project ran for approximately three months.
- Alternative to Violence Program (AVP)
The Alternative to Violence Program (AVP) is a grass root, volunteer based program dedicated to reducing violence in our lives, homes, schools, prisons and society at large. AVP enables participants to deal with a potentially violent situation in a new and creative way. It provides space for people to transform conflict into a win –win situation. The workshops are structured in a way that participants are able to cover AFFIRMATION, COMMUNICATION, TRUST AND COMMUNITY BUILIDING, and CREATIVE CONFLICT RESOLUTION which are the main building blocks of the program. AVP uses shared experiences of participants, interactive exercises, games and role plays to examine how people respond to situations where injustices, prejudice, frustrations and anger can lead to aggressive behaviours and violence.
AVP can help the participants to:
- Manage strong feelings like anger and fear
- Deal more effectively with risks and danger
- Build good relationship with others
- Communicate well in difficult situations
- Recognize skills one has and build new ones
- Be true to yourself while respecting others
- Understand why conflicts happen
AVP is anchored in some philosophy among them:
- There is good in everyone
- We are all learners and all teachers
- We learn by experience
AVP has three levels
- Basic level
Understanding and believing in yourself and respecting others
Building trust and maintaining good relationships
Handling and managing strong emotions
- Advanced level
Explores conflict, nonviolence in more depth while building on skills developed in level one
Usually participants co-operate to choose the themes of level two
- Training of facilitators (T4F)
Participants are chosen right from the basic training and oriented to become facilitators
- HEALING AND REBUILIDING OUR COMMUNITIES (HROC)
I grew up together with my brothers and sisters and we had a very good relationship. As years went by my brother joined the police force and I remained home doing farming. We helped each other very well. Life started being a challenge at the village and I asked my brother if I could join him at the city to look for some casual jobs. He agreed.
One morning I took a bus and set off to Nairobi. Since it was my first time to the city I had to ask for directions to where my brother lived. When I arrived at the police camp, my brother was not there and I was welcomed by a female police who was there. She kept on asking me questions pertaining to our relationship which surprised me.
He came in 30 minutes later and the lady asked me to wait for him outside. I was shocked when my real brother passed me without even greeting me. At first I thought that he did not recognize me because of the hat I was wearing, but that was not the case. I removed the hat and followed him calling his name and that fell on a deaf ear. I was left wondering what to do next since it was getting late. So I decided to follow him to his house and I forced myself in and sat near the door. He cooked and ate alone without even looking or saying anything to me. After him finishing eating the next thing I saw was him throwing my bag outside and chased me with a gun threatening to shoot me. I slept on a curb till morning. To date I still live with bitterness. HROC participant.
Why HROC ?
- Its designed to help people recognize and understand trauma
- Helps people and the community to know how to deal with trauma
- How to heal from trauma
- To know that life continues after traumatic events
- Helps people to reconnect themselves to their communities
The basic level is usually done in three days.
The first day is committed to looking at “trauma” – its definition, causes, symptoms and its consequences. It also gives participants an opportunity to differentiate between normal stress and traumatic stress and have an in-depth awareness of self through an exercise called Johari’s window. The second day, which is usually an emotional day, focuses on loss, grief and mourning, and gives participants space to share their personal loss. This day also reflects on anger and how people can respond to it constrictively. The last day looks at trust and mistrust and how people can rebuild trust in communities where such a history of awful things happened. The basic workshop is the corner stone in a larger program designed to build community capacity to respond to widespread trauma and strengthen inter-connections and reduce isolations.
HROC just like AVP is anchored in its philosophies:
- In every person, there is something that is good.
- Each person and society has the inner capacity to heal, and an inherent intuition on how to recover from trauma. Sometimes the wounds are so profound that people or communities need support to reencounter that inner capacity.
- Both victims and perpetrators of violence can experience trauma and its after-effects.
- Healing from trauma requires that a person’s inner good and wisdom is sought and shared with others. It’s through this effort that trust can begin to be restored.
After the trainings there is usually a one day follow up and community celebration that bring everyone together who has gone through the training. It also helps in identifying people, commonly known as “healing companions,” who will walk with those that have already started the journey of healing.
I am a pastor and I had known that by virtue of my profession I am the best mediator in any conflict, but today this theory has proved me wrong thanks to the organizers of this forum. Mediation training participant.
Mediation is a process in which a third party works with parties in a conflict, as they discuss and explore various topics and possibilities for resolution, to help them change the quality of their conflict interaction from negative and destructive to positive and constructive.
Transformative mediation describes violence as a crisis in human interactions and parties need help in overcoming this crisis and restoring constructive interventions.
The main objective of the training:
- People to understand transformative conflict theory
- Be familiar with the concept of empowerment and recognition
- Understand the purpose of third party intervention in the transformative framework
- Understanding the role a mediator employs to support party empowerment and inter party recognition
- Be able to engage in the basic practices of transformative mediator
Why choose transformative mediation with its theory of conflict?
- Human beings are believed to be inherently social, connected beings, motivated by a moral impulse to act with both strength and compassion, to be neither victim or victimizer, to interact humanely with each other in all their relation including conflict.
- Human beings have inherent capacities for both self-determined choice and responsiveness to others, even when confronted with adverse circumstances. This enables them to achieve their desire for morally humane conflict interactions.
- Because what motivates and matters most to us as human beings is morally humane interactions with others, the most salient meaning of conflict is a crisis in human interactions that tends to generate destructive interactions.
- The most important product of conflict intervention is a change in the quality of the conflict interaction itself from destructive to constructive, negative to positive regardless of the specific substantive outcome.
This training is participatory and a lot of mediation practice is employed to enable participants to have an in-depth understanding of the procedures to be followed.
Three core values are insisted in the entire training for a mediator:
- Attention: The mediator pays close attention to the unfolding conversation, in order to identify opportunities for empowerment and recognition as they may arise.
- Monitor: The mediator thinks before intervening, in order to monitor his or her motivations for intervening and to suppress any urges to be directive.
- Respond: The mediator responds when appropriate, only to support the parties own efforts to make paradigm shift.
Some of the key things that participant need to understand during the mediation process are
- How to open up the conversation
- How do we set ground rules
- Signing of agreements if any
- When to use separate meetings
- When to adjourn the meetings
Observations during the project
- Culture has an adverse effects on how women participate in community meetings /trainings.
- Most people block the process of mediation with the Bible.
- Levels of illiteracy are high in the community hence easily manipulated to start wars.
- Using local facilitators enhances deeper understanding of the concepts.
Achievements of the workshops:
- Participants started their journey of healing
- Were able to realize they had trauma but on different levels
- Resilience was seen in some participants
- There was consistency in participation
- Co-facilitation worked well
- Bonding between facilitators and participants was well
- There was follow–ups sessions with participants who were traumatized
- Muddy terrain of the region hence not easy to move around
- Disarmament of weapons not done hence fear of reprisal
- Some participants used as spies by the gang making it hard for others to open up for fear of victimization
- Culture hinders women in community participation
- Have regular follow ups and listening sessions to avoid relapse of trauma
- Have facilitator refresher trainings for capacity building
- Have quarterly gatherings to share challenges
- Incorporate peace programs with livelihood project to enhance sustainability
- Network with other peace stake holders for greater coverage
- Have newsletters to share information
- Scale up to other regions which been adversely affected by violence
- Have more of follow up sessions with the beneficiaries of the program