What do you think about when you hear of ‘conflict’?
When most people think about conflict, the image that comes to mind is guns and bullets, crying children hiding under their mothers’ skirts, and people carrying their belongings, walking to destinations unknown.
The truth is, violence, of any form, whether domestic, regional, national or international, has the power to affect children more than other populations in society. Children are, by nature of their age, helpless in many situations and violence leaves them more vulnerable than any other situation. Conflict is a violator of children rights around the world.
Kenya had enjoyed relative peace through the years leading up to the 2007 elections, but the results of those elections led to significant violence and thousands of people being displaced from their homes and others losing their lives. The violence took place for about two months after the elections results were announced and at the end of it all about 1,133 Kenyans were killed and 600,000 more displaced from their homes. Many children were orphaned and many of them were separated from their parents, never to see them again. Others lost their homes and had to move into camps for safety, living in a small tent with all of their families in one of the near 150 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. Most of the orphaned children ended up on the streets, surviving by begging for money and food, and collecting plastics, scrap metal and other sellable goods to pay for their base needs.
We would all like to protect our children from violent situations but the reality is that children see and hear more than they let on. In the month of January 2013, AfCiC, through the civic education team, sought to hear the views of the children on violence and on what they considered as conflict resolution. Forums with children, in 2 Primary Schools and in 2 High Schools, were held. The forums were in the form of cultural events and the children prepared songs, dances and poems.
Children from the different schools were tasked to come up with poems, choral verses, songs and plays on conflict and peace. They wrote poems of suffering, of tears and of loss. They hoped and they begged for peace and understanding in their homes, their schools and in their country. They blamed adults, who they felt were responsible for their welfare, but who keep making bad decisions that affect them negatively. One poem stood out; it was entitled ‘2013’; and the poem had been composed by a young boy in Gaichanjiru Boys High School. The poem was a cry for better decisions by the end of the year 2013. It was a cry for help and a cry for understanding by all tribes and all the politicians. The poem highlighted the progress made over the years and painted a picture of how well life was going for the new year and just how easy it would be to destroy all the efforts made. One of the things that most stood out in the poem was the plea for the protection of children.It sought to only have smiles and happy faces in the children that lived in it and for them to have a home.
The cry for peace by the children was repeated in all the poems and songs presented in the different events held. The bottom line is children are seeking to be involved in all the decisions that involve them. Tribal differences have all but disappeared in their generation as most of them cannot even talk in their mother tongue. To them this is not even an issue and this is a positive change as their generation will not be plagued by petty differences based on tribes. We owe them a chance to grow up and make this nation a better nation. They will bring a new beginning to our nation and to the people in it.
We continued this cry for peace in the upcoming elections, just this previous weekend, with a day in Mathari slums on the outskirts of Nairobi, home to 300,000 people, where we have partnered with ‘Kicks for Peace’, a vehicle advocating for fair and peaceful elections come March. We worked with street children and the community, organising a football tournament and other small activities as well as spending time at an outreach centre and clearing rubbish in the slum area.
Peace starts from all of us. Don’t hit your wife: talk to her, communicate with her, and there will be peace in your home for the night. Don’t assault your child and there will be peace and understanding in that home. It’s the little things that will make us a peaceful nation. Our children see and hear the conflict we perpetrate however little we might think it is. Its starts with us and what we do now will determine what future generations will do. If we destroy our country come March, we will only have ourselves to blame.