My fellow Cabinet Secretaries, Excellences present, Chairman and Commissioners of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Heads of Government Departments and Agencies represented, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen;
I am delighted to join you this morning on this important occasion to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Peace, defined as the freedom from war and violence, including the absence of stressful circumstances such as drought, hunger and disease, permeates all aspects of human endeavor. While we would all wish to live harmoniously in a peace, the world has, however, experienced cataclysmic events that have threatened our own existence. The First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War, the struggle for independence in many parts of the world in the 1950s and 60s, and more recently the war in Iraq and Afghanistan led to massive decimation of human lives. Closer home are the incessant wars within the Great Lakes region, the escalating conflict in Somalia and the Sudan and the recent spate of terrorism within the region.
Kenya, just like other countries in the region, has experienced accelerated forms of conflict. These have ranged from ethnic clashes, terrorism, cattle rustling, and lately, religious intolerance.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kenya’s high-voltage politics has largely depended on ethnic solidarity. Politicians always manipulate their ethnicities to support their quest for power as an ethnic endeavor. Competing ethnic groups are viewed as enemies hence the election-related conflicts, especially since the introduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s. As you may recall, the 2007/8 ethnic clashes took Kenya close to the precipice.
Additionally, competition for resources, water, pasture and salt licks, more so in pastoralist areas is the other cause of the incessant conflicts. You must be familiar with the frequent cases of conflicts between the Pokot and Turkana or the Pokomo and the Orma, the Samburu and Turkana, and so on as featured regularly in the media.
We cannot forget the marginalization of communities, particularly those in northern Kenya, which has spawned various forms of conflict, including the provision of ideal conditions for spawning terrorism.
Though multiple approaches have been instituted by government and other players such as members of the international community, civic and religious organizations, these conflicts have not abated. This, therefore, calls for soul searching to establish why this situation has persisted. Are our approaches wrong? Are we involving the wrong people? Are we addressing the real causes? Is our judicial system strong enough to mete out deterring punishments? Or are our analyses of the situation based on the wrong premises? Ad infinitum…
The International Day of Peace, therefore, provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the importance of peace and subsequently consider the strengthening of its ideals, both within and among all nations and peoples. This year’s theme, Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All, focuses on the need for all-inclusive approaches that brings people of diverse walks in life to work together towards peace. The youth are a special constituency as any conflict has serious repercussions on them. I note, for instance, that the youth population in Kenya, those aged between 15 and 34years old, as defined in the Constitution, stands at 35.4% of the total population. This means that they have a very huge stake in all matters in so far as peace is concerned. The formation of Amani clubs is a timely intervention as the clubs will provide them with a platform to fight negative aspects of ethnicity and the associated ethnic stereotypes, promote the appreciation of diversity and advocate nationhood.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I invite members of the Amani clubs to partner with my Ministry in developing programmes and activities that would promote peace-building, national integration and cohesion. I call upon the clubs to consider exploring some of the following opportunities and options available through the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts, in their quest for peace:
- Participation of youth in sports competition and fora to build trust and promote peace. The Tegla Lorupe Peace run is an existing example of how this continues to impact positively on youth in West Pokot and surrounding environments.
- Engage in performing art such as music and dance –there are songs and dances that promote peace and reconciliation. I am informed that music and dance use a universal language that cuts across ethnicities and nationalities and could be used to convey messages of peace to unite individuals of different backgrounds, believes and cultures.
- Learn the approaches used by traditional Kenyan communities to manage and resolve conflicts. It is important for members of the clubs to research what existed in their indigenous communities and apply some of the traditions to manage conflict and promote peace. Museums could provide useful experiences as they have collections imbued with symbolism of peace.
- Engage with African traditional philosophies like Utu, which emphasize harmony or togetherness over individual interests and the universal bond of sharing that connects humanity.
- Embrace intercultural exchanges between clubs and youth with a view to providing opportunities for young people to acquire knowledge of other cultures. This will reduce stereotypes and promote respect among cultures.
- Use visual art to promote peace and reconciliation. Art, as a medium, is universal in its appeal. My Ministry, through the network of museums and cultural centres in Kenya, is willing to offer spaces to the Amani clubs to exhibit art that promotes peace, cohesion and integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I conclude by urging all of us to rise beyond the petty ethnic parochialism and engage with issues affecting us by embracing the national values and ideals as enshrined in the Kenya Constitution of 2010. Let us all be ambassadors for peace and advocate dialogue, compassion, respect and social cohesion for a prosperous and peaceful nation.