An innovative new learning exchange which took place this month, saw a group of peacebuilders from north east Kenya travel to Liberia to learn more about community peace platforms, cross-border peacebuilding and conflict resolution.
The group from Kenya, which included representatives from Local Peace Committees (LPCs), county and national government and regional peacebuilding organisations, met with groups and individuals working on peacebuilding initiatives in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone. Adan Dagane, Secretary of the Balambala LPC in Garissa, was one of the Kenyan participants:
"In Liberia, I think they learned many lessons from the civil war. In this county everyone has a part to play in peacebuilding and a responsibility to be a peace-loving citizen."
During the 10-day trip, the Kenyan group visited communities in Grand Cape Mount County, on the border with Sierra Leone, and Nimba County, which borders Côte d’Ivoire. The group met with local peace committees, known as District Platforms for Dialogue (DPDs), which are comprised of trusted and respected community members, trained to identify and resolve conflict through community discussions.
DPD members and representatives from the police, border control and local government, shared their experiences of working in collaboration to maintain peace in the border regions. Kipchirchir Limo, Assistant County Commissioner of Garissa Township in northern Kenya, was one of the participants on the trip:
"It was interesting to find that the DPDs take part in the management of the borders, and work alongside security officials. They meet regularly with peace committees from the other countries, so that peace prevails on both sides of the border."
The Kenyan visitors also joined in community discussions and mediation, which were being led by the DPD members. One of the reasons for the DPDs success is that women play an important role in their structure and leadership, as Adan explains:
"Everywhere we went in Liberia, most of the leaders were women. I will urge my community to encourage women to take part in leadership, so that we can progress like the people of Liberia."
The exchange visit took place as part of Conciliation Resources’ latest work to strengthen peacebuilding initiatives in northern Kenya. Here, existing community structures for addressing conflict are being challenged by new issues such as devolution, terrorism and resource extraction, which are exacerbating existing local tensions.
The work in Kenya supports the training and mentoring of LPCs whose members, including women, youth, elders and religious leaders, are being trained in the prevention and management of existing and new community-level conflicts. The programme is also supporting them to work more effectively with county and national government.
Hassan Osman Shuri is the secretary of the Garissa Township Peace Committee:
"I learnt about the need for communities to really own the peace process, and how to properly coordinate our work with that of the government. I want to take the example from Liberia, back to Garissa county."
In West Africa, Conciliation Resources and national NGO partners, have been working since 2010 to establish and support 18 DPDs in the border regions of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. National NGO, Institue for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD
), played a vital role in the organisation of this learning visit.
Conciliation Resources has constantly looked to learn lessons and adapt to improve the effectiveness of the DPDs. Now these lessons are being shared with community peace committees in other parts of the world.
Aden Abdi is Horn of Africa Programme Director at Conciliation Resources:
"Communities in northern Kenya and the Mano River region of West Africa often face similar challenges when it comes to conflict resolution, and cross-border and regional peacebuilding. Community peacebuilding platforms in West Africa have been extremely successful, and this exchange visit has been an important opportunity for peacebuilders from other parts of the world to learn from their successes."
As part of the learning process, a short film will be made of the visit and screened to local communities and government officials in northern Kenya. This film will also be shared more widely to inform other community peacebuilding initiatives around the world.
This project in Kenya is funded by ifa (Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen) with resources provided by the German Federal Foreign Office.