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Five-year peace drive launched to tame conflict along Kisumu, Kericho, Nandi border

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A peace and resilience initiative that has taken a faith-based approach has been launched. The plan seeks to bring a lasting solution to the perennial ethnic clashes that has for years been witnessed along the borders of Kisumu, Kericho and Nandi counties.  The peace initiative is aimed at strengthening the existing community level structures to address the root cause of the perennial conflict along the borders. This will entail engagements with various actors that includes state, non-governmental organisations and community groups. It will bring on board elders, women, youth and business people, to ensure there is peaceful coexistence.

This comes following ethnic clashes that left tens of people dead, others injured and property destroyed within Sondu area along the Kisumu and Kericho borders. Top of the initiative’s agenda is to end cattle theft in the area which has previously been blamed for the ethnic clashes. The plan entails bringing up alternative sources of livelihood targeting the youth, who have often been considered as the perpetrators in the conflicts.

This will be achieved through the 5- year peace project being spearhead by the Free Pentecostal Fellowship of Kenya (FPFK) with support from the Norwegian government. According to Dr Festus Mukoya, the head of programme at FPFK, the church will rely on the spiritual guidance in its peace mission that entails among other things economic empowerment for residents, as a way to lasting peace in the border area. Mukoya said they believe through this, they can transform the hearts of the people towards embracing peace.

“We believe that through the scriptures, we can transform the hearts of people towards embracing peace with one another,” he said.

Among key issues identified by the team for address is the boundary one between the counties which has often been a cause for eruption of violence.

 FPFK Secretary General Bishop John Kitur cuts the ribbon during the launch of a Five year Peace Resilience Project 

During the launch of the peace initiative campaign at the JCC Church in Sondu town, the FPFK Secretary General Bishop John Kitur urged the National and County governments to work together to settle the boundary row. He said there was no matter that could not be solved to ensure communities live in harmony.

“We appeal to the National and County governments to work together to resolve the boundary issues. There are borders that are unclear hence causing disputes,” Kitur said. He said the church will work together with residents and all government organs in the area to ensure lasting peace is restored.

“We’re here to make sure this people live harmoniously  as they did in the past,” he added.

Residents who attended the launch expressed optimism that the initiative will bear fruit and bring back the peace and tranquility the locals used to enjoy decades ago. One of the residents Hesborn Omondi,  said the initiative will bring out findings which that if taken into consideration, can end the cycle of violence in the area. Omondi said working closely with locals at the grassroots level under the leadership of a faith-based organisation was the way to go.

“We already have the goodwill of our leaders from the government, but it’s good this initiative is being spearhead by a church. Our people trust them and will genuinely engage with them,” he added. Richard Ruto, from the Kericho side of the border also hailed the plan to have a neutral team with joint membership working on peace along the border, as opposed to previous instances where peace committees had their roots from either of the counties.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission regional manager for Nyanza Castro Baraza. Baraza hailed the organisers of the peace campaign for ensuring ethnic balance in the team. He called for the inclusion of other minority communities who also live in Sondu area. He pledged support for the group, adding that the commission will go out of its way to ensure the peace mission succeeds, for the benefit of residents who still bear the scars of the perennial ethnic conflicts in the area. “There is no violence in Sondu now, it’s peaceful. This is the right time to talk peace, and as NCIC, we are always ready to work together with anyone who stands for peace,” Baraza said. He added; “I want to assure the FPFK team that as a commission, we’ll walk this journey with them.” Sigowet Soin subcounty deputy county commissioner Omar Ali promised that the government through the security agencies, will work alongside the peace team to ensure the calmness is maintained.

The administrator also promised to hasten operations against illicit brew in the area in collaboration with his Nyakach subcounty counterpart Job Anunda. He emphasised the need for all organisations working towards peace in the area to work closely with the government, to ensure there’s no duplication of activities. He said this will also ensure there is effectiveness especially where government intervention is needed for purposes of implementation of agreed policies and recommendations.