Kenya is beset by a multitude of local conflicts that have the potential to escalate at any moment, as a result of resource crises, land tenure issues and political machinations. It is also the scene of some fascinating examples of a bottom-up processes to establish a peace architecture. One of these started in 1993 with an initiative by a group of women of the Wajir district of Kenya, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia. There was a highly destructive cycle of violent conflict in that region, combined with a very weak governance presence, resulting in the failure of state institutions to regulate conflict, provide security and promote development.
The success of the Wajir Peace and Development Committee in bringing peace to the district and in maintaining that peace, soon led to the spread of the model to other districts in the northern part of the country. In 2001, the government established a National Steering Committee (NSC) on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management. The Office of the President, through the NSC, embarked on a process towards the development of a national policy on peacebuilding and conflict management in 2004. The National Policy on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management, including the lessons learned from the Post-Election Violence of 2008, was published at the end of 20011 by the Office of the President.
During the post-Election Violence (end 2007/beginning 2008)communities with functional district peace committees managed to succeeded in quickly controlling the violence, or contributed to preventing the escalation of violence – especially in the northern part of Kenya. After the establishment of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 the government decided to create District Peace Committees in all of Kenya's districts. There is a fair amount of consensus among researchers and observers that the peace committees have, on the whole, been successful, especially in the pastoralist areas. They have demonstrated their ability to manage inter-community conflict and to contain or prevent violence. Progress has been made by the Adoption of the Constitution (Fall 2010); in the work of the National Commission on Cohesion and Integration and in tackling corruption. The Ministry of Education has introduced Peace Education to the schools.
Kenya, which is Africa second largest non-oil economy, held a constitutional referendum without a single incident of violence. Prior to the referendum, UNDP substantially supported national efforts to reach a political agreement on the new draft constitution, and helped government and civil society implement an early warning and response system—the Uwiano Platform – that prevented over a hundred incidents of potential violence in the volatile Rift Valley region alone. Local peace committees were strengthened in all of the country's districts, and played a critical peacemaking role during the referendum. Following the vote, UNDP is now assisting inter-party dialogue on the implementation of the new constitution.
NGOs/Civil society engagement
The initiative in Wajir district consisted of civil society actors working together to sensitise the population to the need for peace. They engaged the Elders of the different clans and set up a mediation process between them. In this process, civil society actors worked with and involved representatives of formal authority, particularly the District Commissioner and a Member of Parliament.
After some time, it became clear that some form of formalisation was needed, so the peace initiatives were integrated into one structure. This structure is known as the District Development Committee, established within the district administration in Kenya, which brought government, NGOs and citizen groups together. In 1995 the Wajir Peace and Development Committee was formed, with the District Commissioner as chairperson. Members included the heads of all government departments, representatives of the various peace groups, religious leaders, NGO representatives, chiefs and security officers. Both in the early years of the NSC, and after the recent post-election violence, broad consultations took place (amongst others in 12 regional Stakeholders Validation workshops) between the government and non-state actors, involving all relevant ministries, academia, development partners, regional organizations, CSOs, women, youth groups, communities, private sector and local authorities.