The U.S. Can Help Prevent Deadly Conflict in Kenya
By Cassidy Regan on 11/02/2011 @ 10:00 AM
This week, FCNL released its new policy brief focused on how the U.S. can help to prevent deadly conflict during Kenya's next national elections. With the polls just a year away, preventive action and peacebuilding must be made an immediate priority (rather than left until the potential for violence reaches its peak). In light of U.S. support for Kenya's recent invasion of Somalia, it's time to call for a policy toward Kenya that will help promote peace, not war, before the country's 2012 elections.
While much has been achieved in Kenya since the devastating electoral crisis of late 2007 and early 2008, the risk of renewed violence during its next national poll remains high. Though lasting peace will only come through the continued dedication and empowerment of Kenyans themselves, the policies and actions of the United States and international community directly affect their efforts. Before elections take place in late 2012, Kenya's partners can take concrete steps to establish policies as supportive of and conducive to a peaceful poll as possible.
Key recommendations for the U.S. government include:
- Develop and implement an interagency prevention strategy focused on Kenya well in advance of the 2012 elections. Utilize the new Atrocities Prevention Board at the National Security Council to create a coherent, prevention-focused strategy that emphasizes early, sustained diplomatic engagement and support for local preventive efforts. Invest in the U.S. civilian capacity necessary for effective prevention and response to potential violence (including tools like the Complex Crises Fund and Civilian Response Corps).
- Coordinate preventive diplomatic efforts with key Kenyan and international partners, including the African Union and United Nations. Support others’ leadership and contribute U.S. assets where most useful.
- Direct U.S. diplomatic engagement toward pressing Kenya’s leaders to implement the constitution and to advance government accountability at both national and local levels. Support the International Criminal Court investigations, as well as Kenyan judicial and criminal justice reform. Urge greater demonstration of commitment to volatile issues, including land reform, corruption and the resettlement of those internally displaced.
- Increase funding for U.S. assistance focused on conflict prevention and management, as well as funding for aid that addresses root causes of conflict and supports stability in the long-term. Provide more resources for initiatives related to civic education, community peacebuilding, civil society, fair elections and youth economic empowerment, particularly in volatile areas.
- Ensure that U.S. assistance does not inadvertently enable further human rights violations. Undertake a full review of U.S. security assistance to Kenya that is informed by a conflict assessment and a thorough examination of the current state of Kenya’s security forces. Proactively monitor units receiving U.S. assistance and halt all lethal aid.
- Provide funding to support the disarmament of local militias and increase efforts to help reduce arms trafficking in the greater region. Continue to facilitate the destruction of small arms and light weapons.
Rather than allowing short-term interests in counterterrorism to take precedence at the expense of long-term commitments to peace and stability, the U.S. must shift its resources to support violence prevention and peacebuilding well before the elections take place. With sufficient effort and investment, a peaceful Kenyan election is truly possible – and there is much that the United States and international community can do to help support it.