Established in 2010, the Mount Elgon Peace Initiative (MEPI) works to enhance peaceful co-existence among the diverse ethnic communities of the Mount Elgon region, in western Kenya. The area is mainly inhabited by the Sabaot, Bukusu and Teso people, who compete for resources and political representation.
MEPI was initiated by members of a local Mennonite Church who wanted to act as agents of peace in the community. Built on a doctrinal foundation of non-violence, its leaders reached out to other faith leaders in the area in an effort to widen the scope of their work. Registered as a national NGO since 2013, MEPI’s mission is to foster a culture of tolerance and peaceful cooperation, in tandem with the National Integration and Cohesion Policy, part of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution.
Increasing engagement, reducing tensions
Making the transition from a community organisation to a fully-fledged NGO has given it the mandate to engage in peacebuilding in the Bungoma, Busai, Trans Nzoia and Kakamega Countries. It helped to implement the Mount Elgon Peace and Development Project, one of eight grantees funded by USAID under the Kenya Civil Society Strengthening Program. Its work was two-fold: first, to improve political engagement and tolerance among the different communities. And second, to improve the socialisation of children into a culture of peace. Under that project, MEPI conducted peace education and established peace clubs in fourteen different schools. It also supported ex-militia and other vulnerable youths in agricultural income-generating activities that were aimed at re-integrating them into society, and building their resilience towards conflict and violence. This helps them avoid political incitements to violence, as well as addressing the problem of youth unemployment which makes crime seem like an attractive option for work.
MEPI seeks to address identity-based conflicts among young persons and resource-based conflicts among the various ethnic communities living around Mt. Elgon in Kenya. Last year, MEPI partnered with the district peace community and other civil society organisations in a project that was implemented in the Kopsiro division of Mt. Elgon. The project sought to address the socialisation gaps among children and youth from diverse ethnic communities, as well as improving political engagement between the different ethnic groups. political engagement among the Sabaots, Bukusus and Teso peoples.
MEPI has also brought together teams of youths among the above tribal communities in outdoor interactive sports on an International Youth Day, on August 12 in 2011 and 2012. These events have helped to demystify stereotypes and enhance collaborations among the groups.
Among other impacts, MEPI's work has seen enhanced cohesion and tolerance in the Kopsiro division in Mount Elgon. Kopsiro plays host to the Chepyuk Settlement Scheme, which aims to deal with conflict for the many landless people in the area. This can be seen in the peaceful electioneering during the last general election in Kenya - unlike in 2007, when the area saw some of the worst violence of the election.
Building for the future: sharing stories of past conflict and future peace in local schools
MEPI has witnessed tremendous success in its peace building endeavours. One of our notable successes is the peace and harmony which now prevails in the 14 schools where we have estbalished peace clubs. One of these, the Korng’otuny Primary School, had been destroyed by members of the out-lawed Sabaot Land Defense Force – a illicit gang that terrorised villagers using murder and rape between 2006 and 2008. The school has now been rebuilt, and learning has resumed, with children sharing their stories and experiences of the 2006-2008 period through memory books.