KENYA: My first two filed trips outside the office just a two weeks after my arrival. The first one is in Nakuru, just few hours drive from Nairobi.
Together with the team of Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery we are going to visit the projects for the recovery of the livelihoods after the Post election violences (PEV, how they like to call it here at the UN).
The last national elections of 2007/2008 in Kenya, were followed by clashes and violences, which led families and individuals to leave or lose their houses. Although the numbers are still now uncertain, there were around 670,000 people displaced and around 1,300 who died. As a consequences, in the areas affected, all the livelihood activities were stalled. Four years have passed since then. During these years, the Government, with the support of the UNDP (and other UN agencies) have worked on recovering the livelihoods and the lives of those people who had to leave their lands and move somewhere else. Several were the projects brought forward: first of all some camps for displaced people were build, to be able to give a house to those who had lost it, then District Business Solution Centres were established to help micro-enterprises, tools and inputs for breeding, farming and fish farming were provided, and several projects to mobilize young people took place.
In Nakuru we went to visit two camps for Internal Displaced People (IDPs, that’s how the people who lost their houses are called). In both camps, a fish farming project had been implemented. Some groups of people within the camps were provided with trainings on fish farming, they were supported with the construction of the ponds, provided with fingerlings and fish feed.
The fingerlings were installed in May and the fish farming groups are waiting for the first cycle of production. The project, if successful, could allow the groups to develop it and make it a stable point of the economy of the communities. The demand of fish in the surrounding area is already present, given that Nakuru and Naivasha are both quite touristic, because of the wonderful lakes and the wildlife. In the camps, we had also the chance to see some examples of businesses that were started after some trainings organized by the government. The trip was extremely interesting and it was an occasion for me to understand what we are really doing on the field.
At the end of these two days of visits, I was sent to a conference among the representative of political parties to discuss solutions on the topic of internal displacement, with an eye to the next elections. In order to carry out
a peaceful electoral campaign the parties of Kenya, under the initiative of the UNDP Kenya, have formed the Political Parties Collaborative Leaders Forum, with the aim of finding a common space where to meet and to discuss about the elections and the issues related to it. This particular conference was called to find a common understanding for durable solutions to Internal Displacement. Representative of t he Parliamentary Select Committee on IDPs and of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission were also present.
The debate was interestingly very heated. I realized how Kenyan politics is still driven by tribes issues. Despite the terrible consequences of tribalism at the last elections, the political parties are not yet able to focus on ideologies or political views. Most of the speeches were addressed to issues concerning IDPs that were still not resettled because of their geographical or ethnic provenience. Some of the speakers ended up being quite aggressive in the tone of their speeches, although I was not able to understand all of them, given that some were speaking in Swahili. On Saturday, after two days of conference, I thought I had already managed to collect lots of useful information about Kenya, but it was not finished yet.
On Monday, as soon as I stepped in the office, my supervisor informs me that I have to go to a conference down town. He doesn’t explain what is it about, only that it has something to do with our Peace Building unit. When I am close to enter the conference, I realize that it is not something small. There are decorations with the color of Kenyan flag everywhere and the amphitheater is full. As soon as I manage to sit in a corner where I am not too visible (I am 2 hours late, without knowing it), I glanced at the program. “The People’s conference: National Diversity, Ethnicity and Race”. The official opening is going to be with the Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
The debate is about tribes and sense of national identity. Scholars and researchers from different parts of the country share their opinion about the general picture of the country. Once again, it is evident how far they are from being in peace with each other. Many groups feel there is still some prejudices based on ethnicity, they feel excluded from the political life and from the development of the country.
In this scenario, the elections and the electoral campaign are not going to be easy. Some people are still full of anger because of the past: among the relatives of the victims and the ones who lost their belongings there are some who did not forgive and are still looking for revenge. Discriminated and marginalized groups are angry as well and are willing to stand in defense of their rights. Politicians and scholars are still discussing the necessity of national pride and national cohesion, but the problem is not the differences among cultures in Kenya, but the fact that politics is not national, but local. The parties are not represented equally around the country. Most of them just have offices in Nairobi and no support outside of it. Politics needs to be more inclusive.