2C: the FCNL Staff Blog

What Do FCNL Constituents and Congressional Staff Have in Common?

By Cassidy Regan on 02/10/2012 @ 05:00 PM

Tags: Peaceful Prevention, Kenya

Cassidy Regan

This week, both were talking about the importance of preventing violent conflict in Kenya.

On Monday afternoon, staff from both Senate and House offices joined FCNL for a briefing on what steps the U.S. can take to help support Kenyan efforts toward peace. During the briefing, staff learned about the peacebuilding work Friends in Kenya have undertaken since 2007-2008, as well as the concerns many have in anticipation of the next election. All who attended expressed interest in the positive role Congress can play in encouraging a U.S. policy supportive of peace, and we’re looking forward to continuing the conversation over the upcoming year.

The next day, FCNL constituents from across the country also joined a conference call on how Friends in the U.S. are working to help prevent violent conflict. After an update focused on our collaboration with other Quaker organizations and our hopes for U.S. policy in the upcoming year, the group had a discussion that ranged from mention of a trip that Earlham College alumni took to Kenya fifteen years ago to concerns around U.S. military assistance to Nairobi (which we’ve recently heard is as high as $300 million per year).

With the recent International Criminal Court decisions and military intervention in Somalia considered, dynamics around Kenya’s next national elections grow increasingly complex. Human Rights Watch recently investigated how little accountability has been pursued for past perpetrators of violence, while the International Crisis Group has raised concerns about the negative impact the Somalia intervention may have on Kenya’s communities – not to mention the resources it may drain from other important programs and political concerns, or the ways in which it has exacerbated East Africa’s humanitarian crisis.

Over the coming year, the U.S. has the potential to demonstrate true commitment to all the progress Kenyans – including Kenyan Friends – have made toward peace and empowerment in their communities. Many agencies within the U.S. government are working hard to do so. But with military assistance that reaches as much as $300 million per year – a number far larger than that contributed to violence prevention and reconciliation – the commitment could instead seem one in favor of violent solutions. Even if the U.S. government does not rhetorically support interventions such as that undertaken in Somalia (or wage war itself), its arms sale agreements inevitably do – and Kenya has topped the charts for East and Central Africa over the past few years.

Following the conference call on Tuesday evening, an FCNL constituent, Deborah Fink, wrote to her senator to express her concern:

This year Kenyans are facing another election, complicated by the Kenyan attack on rebels in Somalia and the infusion of considerable military assistance from the U.S. At the same time, the State Department is working hard to defuse possible electoral violence in Kenya.

Iowa Quakers support the considerable efforts toward nonviolence of Kenyan Quakers…they are holding Alternatives to Violence workshops and reconciling victims and perpetrators of violence…As an Iowa Quaker following and supporting this work, I am chagrined that some U.S. military assistance to Kenya is undermining the goals of the State Department and American and Kenyan Quakers."

In the true spirit of connecting the conversations that both congressional staff and FCNL constituents had this week, Deb concluded her letter in asking her senator to take action:

I ask for your help in monitoring U.S. assistance to Kenya. The path to security in Kenya is through the people’s commitment to democracy and peace. They are working hard in this direction. May we support, rather than undermine, their efforts?

As Kenya’s next national elections approach, FCNL constituents can continue to call on our government to do just that.

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