The Neighbours Peace Initiative (NPI) works throughout Narok County in Kenya. Registered with the Ministry of Gender and Social Development in 2009, it was founded as Kenyan Initiative, with the motto "We are a nation not sections." in 2007. NPI was set up to deal with the violence which occurred towards 'foreign' communities in Narok in the wake of the 2007 elections.
NPI's vision is of a just, free and peaceful Kenya. It has been a pillar of peace building in Narok County, and commended by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the UNDP and Media Focus on Africa for its exemplary impact in unifying communities in Narok. Indeed, it was accredited to observe the 2013 general elections by the government and UNDP. The organisation also played a significant role in empowering women to take up electoral and administrative positions in the recent general elections.
NPI conducts civic education, leadership programmes, democracy and good governance initiatives, and leads peace promotion activities in community forums, on social media and via SMS platforms. It also uses theatre and sport to reach out to people. NPI's main focus is on empowering minority groups, including women, young people and people with disabilities, to make informed decisions about and participate in Kenya's democracy and governance systems. It also implements a gender development project among rural and low income women in Narok East sub county.
It runs "Neighbour to Neighbour" and "Women to Women" dialogues, as well as training peace ambassadors among ethnic communities in Narok County, in cultural engagement and conflict resolution in both urban and rural settings.
Neighbours Peace Initiative has always endeavoured to engage every stakeholder in conflict resolution, and is careful to work with traditional structures. The organisation has previously worked with Maasai, Kalenjin and Kisii Councils of Elders to seek solutions. These are the custodians of culture and traditional wisdom, and their involvement is key to conflict resolution. They broker peace and seal agreements, and provide knowledge on how to effectively address conflict without prejudice.
Pieces to PEACE: county-specific peacebuilding
Pieces to PEACE is a project conducted by Neighbours Peace Initiative. It conducts conflict resolution initiatives tailored to each sub county in Narok:
Narok East is rich in sources of geothermal power. It is also characterised by frequent evictions of community members who live on the land, forced from their homes by government agencies working on power generation. The Maasai community feel that they are often discriminated against compared with other communities. This has brewed resentment and conflict between different groups.
Narok North is home to members of all 42 tribes in Kenya. Its conflicts arise from competition for resources and political influence.
Narok North and West are home to the Maasai and Kalenjin communities. Where they meet there is often conflict.
- The Transmara, Kilgoris and Emurua Dikirr sub counties are associated with cattle rustling. The Maasai, who are the predominant residents of the three sub counties, the Kuria of Migori County, the Kalenjin of Bomet County and the Abagusii of Kisii County are all involved in sporadic clashes.
Unity through diversity from 2007 onwards: bringing people together to end political violence in Narok
Narok County is home to diverse ethnic groups, who engage in patterns of violence related to the five year election cycle in the region.
At the height of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, the most trying moment in Kenya’s recent history, there were spontaneous attacks throughout the area. Neighbours turned on neighbours, friends on friends, and in the ensuing reprisals communities which had lived peacefully together for many years became enemies. But not all. Some decided that enough was enough. They came together and formed a group to respond to the situation, facing up to the perpetrators of violence and engaging them dialogue. Local peace deals were brokered and sealed with the symbolic slaughter of chickens and goats, and the burying of black stones to curse those who would lay their hands on their neighbours.
These traditional interventions helped to quell violence in the heat of the moment, laying the foundations for further peace talks under the name of Kenyan Initiative, which became NPI. The instigator of this work, Kamakei Ole Sangiriaki, was declared an Unsung Peace Hero by Media Focus on Africa for his work.
Women - the foundation of change in Narok
The most successful aspect of the project was the Women to Women dialogue. Women from diverse communities, but who go to the same markets, share the same water sources and pray at the same Churches, were brought together to hold dialogues about the violence in Narok. They talked to their husbands about peace and conflict, and for the first time women took charge of trying to build peace in the country. They talked about it in Churches, in informal groups ("chamas," in Kiswahili), they branded water points with peace messages and they created inter-ethnic peace committees. Today, the women are still running the committees, and have also started a cultural day when communities living in Narok County come to exhibit their rich cultures. This has gone a long way towards creating harmony and mutual respect, and the same exhibition occurred in December 2014.
Another successful project was the Maasai Woman Diary, supported by the International Rescue Committee in 2013. The project addressed the needs of the women who suffer disproportionately in conflict, carrying children, transporting goods and sleeping in the cold when arsonists torch their houses.