When tensions following the 2007 elections in Kenya erupted into violence, HD responded rapidly by seconding two full time staff members to support Kofi Annan and the African Union Panel of Eminent African Personalities to carry out urgent peace negotiations. A series of agreements known as the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) were subsequently signed and HD retained an active interest in the implementation of these agreements.
As a result of deep historical and political divides among the population, the area most affected by the violence which followed the elections was the Rift Valley. In 2011, HD was asked to contribute its experience and expertise to a peace initiative between the Elders of the two main groups in the area: the Agikuyu and the Kalenjin, which were the primary protagonists of the 2007-2008 crisis. The objective of this peace initiative was to support dialogue among key actors in Nakuru County – Rift Valley Province to prevent a resumption of violence in the 2013 national elections and lay the foundations for peaceful co-existence between all communities in the area in the future. The success of this peace initiative can be mirrored in the March 2013 presidential elections. Efforts by the Elders, women and youth in spreading peace messages across Nakuru County and the surrounding region have been credited for a peaceful election period in Nakuru. For the first time since 1992, the region was peaceful and no violence was reported during the election period.
The 2013 national elections signaled the successful conclusion of HD’s initiative in the Rift Valley. HD hopes that the spirit of co-operation developed by the Elders will continue in the future.
Over its history, the Rift Valley in Kenya has been home to many different people including the Maasai and Kalenjin as well as the Agikuyu who were encouraged to settle in the area during Kenyatta’s presidency (1964-1978). Kenyatta himself was a Kikuyu (individual member of the Agikuyu ethnic community).
While a Kalenjin President (President Moi) succeeded President Kenyatta, the Agikuyu remained in the Rift Valley and many of the grievances between the two groups stemmed from disputes over land in the area. In addition, since independence in 1963, political power at the national level has generally been divided between representatives from the Agikuyu and the Kalenjin.
Local and political divisions between the two groups escalated in 2007 following disputed elections for the national Presidency. In the crisis which followed the election, armed elements from both sides formed militias and the Rift Valley became the central battleground between supporters of the incumbent President Kibaki and the opposition leader Raila Odinga. The crisis was ultimately calmed by the KNDR Agreements. As well as a power-sharing arrangement between the two sides, the KNDR agreements paved the way for new constitutional and other governance arrangements. County level representatives, for example, were elected for the first time in the general elections in March 2013 in Kenya.
Despite previous tensions, political representatives and some members of the Agikuyu and Kalenjin communities enjoyed a reasonable relationship. A greater sense of solidarity among some members (though not all) in the two communities has also emerged from the charges filed against leaders of both sides by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity following the 2007-2008 violence.
Since 2011, Agikuyu and Kalenjin Elders have began taking part in a peace process initiated by Kenya’s National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution (NSC) and its National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).
The NCIC was established in 2008 by an act of parliament to facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful coexistence between people of different ethnic and racial backgrounds in Kenya. The peace process between the Agikuyu and Kalenjin Elders aimed to address grievances between the two groups through the signing of a peace agreement and a road map, which would contribute to the prevention of violence in the March 2013 elections and peaceful co-existence of all communities in the future.
HD’s specific objective was to contribute to the prevention of violence around the elections in the Nakuru County, in the Eastern Rift Valley. HD worked to achieve this by supporting the NCIC and NSC in negotiating the agreement with the Elders with a particular focus on ensuring that the peace agreement fitted in with the KNDR Agreements agreed in 2008. To increase the chances of sustaining peace between the Agikuyu and the Kalenjin in the longer term, HD also worked with the NCIC to ensure the Elders shared information about the process and the content of the final draft agreement with Kenyan women, young people and other minorities who were not part of the formal negotiation process.
The NCIC and NSC process identified 80 Elders (40 from the Agikuyu and 40 from the Kalenjin) who had significant influence in Nakuru County and the wider region. The Elders initially met in two separate groups to identify their main areas of concern and were subsequently brought together to discuss their grievances with each other. These included, among others, ongoing land disputes, militia activity in the local area, and the uneven resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons.
In May 2011, the NCIC invited HD to attend the third joint meeting of the Elders during which HD outlined its work and role in the 2008 national dialogue process. HD also explained how it could help in the drafting of a peace agreement between the Agikuyu and the Kalenjin Elders and ensure that it complemented the ongoing implementation of the KNDR process. HD received positive support from both sides and was asked by the NCIC to contribute to the initiative.
At a subsequent meeting between the Elders and District Commissioners in the area, the Elders outlined their respective cultural customs and reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring a peaceful election process. As a result of this meeting, the Elders agreed to go out together in the region to jointly explain the peace process to their communities. This proved to be a very successful initiative and a subsequent review meeting called by the NCIC found that the Elders had not only established stronger links with each other and with local administrators, but had also successfully intervened in a dispute between the Maasai and the Agikuyu in Naivasha which had resulted in a 90% decrease in cattle-rustling.
The NCIC subsequently asked HD to draw on its previous experience in Kenya as well as its expertise in peace processes to assist the Agikuyu and Kalenjin Elders to develop their existing draft peace agreement. In March 2012, HD attended a meeting of 24 Elders (12 from each community drawn from the technical committee set up to finalise the agreement). Following a discussion of their main issues, a new draft agreement was prepared – facilitated by HD. Following further debate, this agreement was amended and a revised draft agreement was agreed by both the Agikuyu and Kalenjin Elders present. They subsequently discussed it with the wider group of Elders involved in the peace process.
Shortly after this meeting, the NCIC, with support from a local Nakuru Business and Professional Women’s Club, invited two of the Elders (the co-ordinators of the Agikuyu and Kalenjin groups) to share their perspectives on the peace process at a meeting of Kenyan women. The meeting was facilitated by HD and attended by the Chairperson of the NCIC. At the meeting, the Agikuyu and Kalenjin Elders assured those present that the draft agreement would be shared with women and that the Elders were open to hearing and addressing their views on it.
The Elders also talked to representatives, including young people, from their own communities to explain the draft agreement and increase support for it across Nakuru County. To ensure as many people as possible were aware of the draft agreement, the NCIC and HD also met religious leaders to discuss the peace process; they expressed their continued commitment to initiatives which aim to pursue peace. The Kalenjin and Kikuyu Elders also discussed the agreement with representatives of other communities in Nakuru County including the Luo, Abagusiiii, Akamba, Mijikenda, Somali and Abaluhya communities who endorsed it after recommending that the agreement recognised their grievances and their input to the peace process. Following this process, HD, in partnership with the NCIC, the NSC and the Elders finalised the draft agreement and publicised it widely in Nakuru County in advance of a formal signing ceremony. This included a series of media briefings in media houses and a press conference in Nairobi.
The agreement, called the Nakuru County Peace Accord, was signed by Elders of the Kikuyu and Kalenjin communities, as well as Elders from the other communities in the County on 19 August 2012 in Nakuru. The signing ceremony was witnessed by the NCIC, the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission, the Provincial Commissioner’s Office and HD. The Accord focuses on addressing issues between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities, as well as others in the province. It underscores the dangers of politicization of communities and the importance of all leaders committing to governing for all residents of the County. The agreement includes a code of conduct that calls on all who hold public office to build trust, prevent violence and ensure no community is permanently excluded from governance and state functions.
HD also assisted the Elder’s technical committee in putting together a plan for the implementation of the Agreement. Following the signing of the Accord, HD facilitated further discussions with the Elders on plans for its implementation, and supported outreach activities in Rongai, an area identified by the NCIC as one of the potential hotspots within Nakuru County. In addition, HD brought in a land expert to discuss land and IDP issues with the Elders towards prevention of electoral violence.
While this initiative focused on Nakuru County in the Rift Valley, the NCIC and HD recognise that the process and final agreement can also act as a model for reaching out to other communities and geographical areas in Kenya.
In line with HD’s commitment to promote learning and to improve the practice of mediation, HD together with the NCIC convened a lessons learnt meeting bringing together Elders from the Nakuru peace process to reflect on the process, key lessons learned, and how this process could usefully inform similar processes in other regions. The meeting also focused on moving forward towards the implementation of the Nakuru County Peace Accord. The event brought together representatives from thirteen communities, the NCIC and HD. The newly elected Deputy Governor also attended on behalf of the County Governor.
While at its inception, the Nakuru process was plagued by suspicion between Elders, it successfully grew to a point where confidence had been built between the Elders. The Nakuru peace process received support from the County leadership with the Nakuru County Governor confirming his support. The Elders continued engaging with the County leadership in supporting the implementation of the peace accord as well as in popularizing it.
The media were highlighted as an impediment towards the successful implementation of this accord for spreading propaganda and politicizing the process. It was identified that a careful approach needed to be taken on how to best engage with the media to ensure their support.
This process included documenting and preparing a case study on the process that would be a model which could be adapted by other communities in Kenya. The case study looked at the methodology used to select the Elders, the peace process and the eventual outcome against the objectives. It identified positive aspects from the process as well as the challenges and gaps, and put forward recommendations for future NCIC interventions. This was done through consultations and the hosting of a lessons-learned workshop with the Kikuyu and Kalenjin Elders, NCIC and other partners directly involved in the process as well as selected community members.
The elections signalled the successful conclusion of HD’s initiative in the Rift Valley. Before the March 2013 national elections, HD and the Elders organised a series of dialogues on points of contention among local actors, including land issues and the resettlement of internally displaced people (IDPs). After the elections took place without incident, the Elders reported that popular sentiment indicated the dialogue process had had a substantial positive influence on the peacefulness of the electoral process in Nakuru County.
HD would like to acknowledge and thank the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) for its support to this project and to this peace process.