Making a Case for Conflict Prevention
By Cassidy Regan on 03/28/2011 @ 10:00 AM
From March 23rd to March 25th, FCNL was lucky enough to host Getry Agizah, a Quaker colleague and Kenyan peace coordinator who traveled to the United States to speak about her work. By the time Getry arrived at FCNL, she had already visited Friends in Indiana, Ohio, and New York, and we were thrilled to continue the conversation.
Getry’s tour focused on her experience as Coordinator of the Friends Church Peace Team, an organization formed in response to Kenya’s post-election crisis of 2007/2008. After violence based largely on disputed electoral results and rising ethnic tension, Kenya suffered the loss of at least 1,000 people and the displacement of over 350,000. Quakers, who have a higher concentration in Kenya than any other country, established FCPT in order to address the devastation.
Since then, Getry and FCPT have sought both to help communities heal from the violence and to build lasting peace. From coordinating workshops for local youth to providing humanitarian support for internally displaced people, FCPT has worked to make conflict prevention a priority in its region. But as the 2012 elections approach and the potential for renewed instability looms, grassroots peacebuilding efforts become even more essential – as does effective international support for their leadership. In coalition with Quaker colleagues, FCNL has been working to help support FCPT’s projects in Kenya and to inform U.S. policymakers about the power of community-led peacebuilding. A result of this collaboration, Getry's visit gave Washington a chance to learn from one of those living in the region most affected by and still vulnerable to election-related violence.
During Getry’s stay, we were able to meet with a number of people actively involved in our country’s policy towards Kenya, including staff members from Congress, the State Department, USAID, and the Kenyan Embassy. In each meeting, Getry emphasized the need to connect grassroots efforts to political mechanisms, focusing in particular on the importance of civic education as the 2012 elections approach. From issues of corruption to those of youth unemployment, Getry’s bottom-line remained unequivocal: only through understanding the purpose and the power of their votes can people begin to appreciate them as alternatives to violent expression – and only through proper implementation of Kenya’s new constitutional reforms and rights can that purpose and power be realized.
In addition to describing current challenges to peace in Kenya, Getry discussed the success that FCPT has had in engaging communities thus far. During a conversation with staff members from FCNL and local non-governmental organizations, she shared her excitement at seeing familiar faces return to her Alternatives to Violence workshops and at seeing communities begin to take ownership of local peacebuilding efforts. Peace, Getry feels, is possible – but must be seen as an evolving entity, requiring constant innovation and active dedication.
If nothing else, Getry’s visit revealed that she practices what she preaches. For me, it served as further evidence that war is not the answer.