From where I stand: “Communities need to know their rights. The major problem is the lack of awareness, they simply do not have information.”Esther Kangogo is 65 years old and lives in Uasin Gishu County of Kenya’s Rift Valley. She is a senior figure in her community with over twenty years of experience in community conflict management. Her family’s property was destroyed during the post-election violence of 2007/08 and has used the experience to advocate louder than ever for peace.
I was selected to join the committee because I was one of the victims of the 2007 post-election violence. As a community, we lost a lot of property. After the violence, I did not plan for revenge, neither did I hold any hatred. I went on a mission to promote peace because I knew with peace, my property would not have been destroyed. I began speaking with women because I knew they could influence the men and the youth inside the family home. I went on a mission to promote peace because I knew if peace prevailed, my property would not have been destroyed. I informed them that there is a need to take a stand so that our communities and families can have peace.
I set time aside to work for free to educate people on the importance of peace, and that it begins even before conflicts happen. We need to build peace with our families, our children, and our community. There is a feeling among the men that avoiding conflict is submitting, or a sign of weakness. It is common for communities to seek alternative justice [i.e via traditional law and order mechanisms] but I am asked to be involved to ensure there is mediation between groups.
It is important to advocate for these issues at all times, whether in church or during our table banking groups. Communities need peace to develop, children can comfortably go to school.
Concerning community conflicts, I have been involved in conflicts related to land issues. I managed to convince communities to visit land authorities, and together we wrote a letter to be submitted. The officers came with a map that indicated the boundaries which in turn helped the two families remain peaceful by providing a solution through identifying the boundary as per the demarcations.
Communities need to know their rights. The major problem is the lack of awareness because they simply do not have information on these issues. Sometimes, people give up and resort to attacking one another - even killing one another - because they are not aware of what the constitution stipulates on their rights especially regarding land, life, and other issues. When they are educated, they will know that there are services/bodies that can assist them.
Esther supports the work of Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL), a community-led organisation that promotes the Women, Peace and Security agenda to Kenya’s grassroots. With the support of the Government of Japan, RWPL are seeking to address communal conflict, pastoral violence fueled by competition for resources in Kenya’s Arid and semi-Arid Lands.