What Can We Tell U.S. Policymakers?
By Diane Randall on 05/08/2012 @ 05:00 PM
Our power as individuals and as a faith community comes when we act on our convictions--this idea was affirmed through the theme of "being salt and light" at the World Gathering of Friends just as it is when we live out each day working for peace and justice. I knew that Quaker collaboration to help prevent deadly conflict in Kenya was important before I left; being in Kenya and seeing the transformative relationships between perpetrators and victims of atrocities served to reaffirm the transformative power of non-violence as a response to conflict and the value of public policies that promote peace.
What can we say to our U.S. policymakers about our public policies and this kind of transformative conflict resolution? Many may feel that the work of those building peace in Kenyan communities remains disconnected from U.S. policy in Washington. While it is true that the capacity to prevent renewed electoral violence lies with those in Kenya, there are actions our own government can take to help promote peacemaking and mitigate conditions for deadly conflict.
When we meet with policymakers in Washington, D.C., they are inspired by the testimonies that come from Friends building peace in Kenya. They ask questions about how a small group has been able to train over 1,000 young people in Alternatives to Violence, including some former perpetrators of atrocities who now express a deep commitment to peaceful means. They begin to believe that the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict – in place of an unbounded dependence on military intervention – is truly possible.
Though the U.S. government has made some progress toward improving violence prevention capacities – including the announcement of the Atrocities Prevention Board last week – FCNL remains concerned that the U.S. is not doing all it can to ensure that our government's policies help complement (and do not undermine) Kenyan communities’ efforts toward peace. Rather than emphasizing prevention of violence and peacebuilding, the U.S. is increasingly focused on counterterrorism and military assistance that could undermine stability in the long-term. While the 2013 State Foreign-Operations budget request did not identify direct funding for peace and reconciliation in Kenya, the National Defense University estimates military aid at as high as $300 million per year – aid that goes with little oversight or accountability.
This week, I wrote a letter to President Obama sharing our concerns and recommendations for the year ahead (and following up on some of the key recommendations found in our Kenya policy brief). Some concrete steps that the U.S. can still take include:
- Establish a comprehensive, early strategy for supporting the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict in Kenya, which emphasizes coordination with key Kenyan and international actors and clearly guides all U.S. policy (including military engagement and assistance)
- Improve monitoring and oversight of current U.S. security assistance to Kenya, to ensure that it neither enables further human rights violations nor contributes to instability
- Support greater assistance for locally-led violence prevention initiatives and long-term peacebuilding
My time in Kenya showed me just how powerful community peacebuilding can be. If the U.S. were to truly invest in these capacities – rather than those that can help fuel further instability – it could begin to shift its presence in the world toward one that helps prevent, not fight, war. Starting with support for the incredible work of Friends in Kenya, those of us in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S. can begin making real change toward this end.
Take action now! Write to your members of Congress about the importance of support for tools of violence prevention and initiatives toward long-term peace in Kenya – rather than the military focus that could do more harm than good.