Middle East

In Kenya, young people lead peace drive on election eve | Uhuru Kenyatta

Kibera, Kenya – Last Saturday in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum, local artists held an event to celebrate ethnic diversity across the community.

Located on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi, a neighborhood of an estimated 250,000 people, has been prone to election riots in the past.

On the eve of a poll in Kenya on August 9, Kenyan artists say they have come together this time to encourage peace and respect among the region’s various communities.

“Kibera is like a miniature version of Kenya because almost all the tribes live here,” said Francis Omondi, a visual artist at a Kenyan nonprofit called Art360 Kibera, which hosted Saturday’s event. told Al Jazeera. “We usually stay together until election time, but then people start to divide by tribe, religion and social class.”

The event was part of a series of peace initiatives held across the city the weekend before Tuesday’s elections. Youth Voter Indifference.

In December 2007, then-President Mwai Kibaki was announced as the winner of the presidential election, and Laila Odinga was widely believed to have won. Statistics from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report that more than 1,200 Kenyans have died and more than 300,000 have been displaced.

Kibera was one of the hotspots for that violent episode.

Odinga, who became prime minister of the post-crisis coalition government, also disputed the 2013 and 2017 polls.

He was once again the leading presidential candidate in Tuesday’s poll, this time facing Vice President William Ruto.

message of peace

The Youth Peace Festival hosted by the country’s National Youth Council (NYC) opened Sunday with a prayer against violence and ended with a concert at the Kenya International Conference Center.

Musicians such as gospel superstar Size 8, rapper Calligraph Jones, singers Wyre, Mercy Masika, Trio Mio, and famous boy band Sauti Sol’s Chimano performed to urge young people to keep the peace.

Also present was Stephen Jackson, United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kenya, who said, “We need champions for peace, and we need them to be equally protected during this election period and beyond.”

“We know what happened in the previous elections in this country. We young people cannot go back to where we came from,” said the New York mayor and advocacy group against gender-based violence. said Isha Mohammed, founder of Her Narrative.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be in that situation. [again] …and we at NYC have decided to hold this day of prayer and concert to remind ourselves as young people of the importance of promoting peace,” she said.

At the adjoining KICC wing, clerics of various denominations gathered to pray for peace and the success of Odinga, one of two leading presidential candidates.

Children prepare to perform at Kibera’s peace initiative ahead of the August 2022 elections. [Anna Gordon/Al Jazeera]

It was the art that shone in Kibera.

Prior to the event, community artists volunteered time to create costumes and masks representing the traditional costumes of over 20 major ethnic groups in Kenya. Local models wore the costumes as they danced her numbers, sang songs, and posed for photos.

The actors also worked together to tell a theatrical story about Kenyan tribal unity. Altogether, nearly 100 children attended the event, most with face painting provided by Art360 Kibera. I was using

“We will paint the peace message and the Kenyan flag on the children’s faces,” Omondi told Al Jazeera. “I hope that when they return to their parents, they will spread the message and remind people to take the initiative for peace into their own hands.”

He and other artists used second-hand clothing to keep costs low, repurposed scrap objects, and self-financed the event. “We want to encourage people to be creative with what they use for their materials.

Omondi is nervous in the immediate aftermath of the election because his art studio is located in a part of Kibera that is particularly vulnerable to violence. He said the celebration was a way to do something positive in an uncertain situation.

“We felt it was our duty as artists to speak up and tell people to avoid tribal politics,” said Omondi. “This is a time for us to embrace each other’s cultures and celebrate our diversity. I hope the initiative we are starting in Kibera will spread across the country.”

Woman painting child's face at Kibera peace initiative
A woman paints a child’s face at a peace initiative in Kibera ahead of the August 2022 elections. [Anna Gordon/Al Jazeera]

‘Today’s football is important’

Kibera residents also hosted a soccer tournament in partnership with County Governance Watch, a Kenyan non-profit organization that encourages citizen participation.

“Football is important today because it attracts players from different worlds and different villages,” said Owino Cotieno, who helped create the tournament. “They belong to different camps. Some support Lyra, some support Ruto, but they all play soccer together.”

Cotieno will also serve as one of Kibera’s election observers on behalf of County Governance Watch, which reports to the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, which oversees Kenya’s electoral process.

But given the violence of his past, he also looks to the future.

“We need the experience, skills and expertise to manage conflicts just in case,” says Cotieno. “The community needs to be in a better position to turn that conflict into a constructive conversation.”

Youths play soccer in a tournament held as part of a peace effort ahead of the August 2022 elections.
Young people play soccer at a tournament in Kibera as part of a peace effort ahead of the August 2022 elections. [Anna Gordon/Al Jazeera]

Rapudo Hawi, program manager for County Governance Watch, hopes positive social events of this kind can make a difference.

“This is our way of looking at election readiness by interacting with citizens through football tournaments, sporting events and many other forums,” he said.

Despite the weekend’s positive vibes, the election remains a nerve-wracking time for many, especially those remembering the 2007 post-election riots.

“I was very young, but in 2007 I saw it all,” said Paul Odhiambo, a Kibera resident and teacher who attended the cultural festival on Saturday. “Kibera is a place prone to violence because of the hardships people experience here.”

Over the past few years, political leaders have urged supporters to protest election results, which Odhiambo said has caused tension. He hopes this time will be different.

“We all remember the past and no one wants to go back there,” said Odhiambo. “We are tired of being agitated by politicians.”

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2022/8/8/in-kenya-the-youth-use-art-to-push-for-peace-on-eve-of-elections In Kenya, young people lead peace drive on election eve | Uhuru Kenyatta

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