With an estimated 1,000 dead (some put the figure at 2,000) and 600,000 displaced, as well as 12,000 refugees in Uganda, the social map of Kenya is changing. The losses and changes in relations between people are deep. But there is also a process of peace initiatives being steadily built from below. According to Wangui Mbatia, co-ordinator of the Kenyan Network of NGOs
(Kengo) and the People’s Parliament (Bunge La Mwananchi), a grass-roots debating and action network: ‘People themselves are trying to intervene – it can’t come from above. A number of
people are doing small, good things for each other. Kenyans are helping themselves.’
‘The Kenyan people are not fighting actively as before – tensions are lower,’ Mbatia continues. ‘It is very difficult to get Kenyans into a state of civil war; the mediation talks have allowed for the situation to calm down. Despite the political class having hijacked the issue, constitutional reform is back on the table. The capacity shown by the Kenyan people to assist each other has been inspiring. We are still able to talk between and across communities. In certain arenas we are still in a sense able to go beyond their differences.’
The People’s Parliament has been organising all over Kenya, including the flashpoint towns of Nakuru and Eldoret. Its non- partisan approach has given it an advantage over bigger NGOs, which have often been compromised by their support for either one of the candidates.
Salim Mbua, the director of Foymasa (Swahili for ‘forum for real change’), is working on bringing about rapprochement between clashing tribes. Based in Nakuru, where thousands of people are living in the town’s stadium and a curfew is enforced from dusk till dawn, he and 30 others from various tribal backgrounds have been holding education and peace-building seminars. ‘Each organiser goes to his or her own tribe and talks to them; this way we reach everybody,’ he explains. ‘Foymassa has been focusing recently on meeting with elders. We are trying to do this so that they talk to their children and ask them not to fight.’
Nakuru is a cosmopolitan town, with some 40 different tribes, many of which have come into conflict with the dominant Kikuyu. According to Mbua, ‘There have been incidences of ethnic cleansing. The reason is that people believe there has been an unfair allocation of resources, but this is not true. It has been occasioned by the negative campaigns, we think, by politicians.’ He says the most urgent needs are to support peace-building efforts from below and to bring those who have committed crimes to justice, whatever their backgrounds.
Similar efforts are being made in Nairobi. Geoffrey Osiba, programme co-ordinator at Kengo, explains: ‘We’ve been going into some of the areas where there has been conflict and arguing on that which people have in common; that there’s no good in fighting, and it will not add anything to their life whether it is Kibaki or Odinga – it’s up to them in their villages, in their homes, to come together; that we need each other more than we need these leaders.’ He concedes, however, that the interventions need to come from the top too. ‘If people unite at the top and set an example, then people on the ground will follow.’
Land and freedom
The issues of ancestral lands, the plight of squatters and colonial mono-crop occupation have come to the fore in Kenya’s post-election conflict, as some groups find themselves displaced for the third time in a century. Kengo is formulating proposals for a truth and reconciliation commission and submitting a document on constitutional reform to the United Nations. Knowing who really won the elections is a fundamental point of departure.
Determining the starting point for addressing restitution has proved
problematic. ‘Do we begin with 2007, or 1992 or 1963?’ asks Wangui Mbatia. ‘Any discussion about land in Kenya must also be a discussion about the British interest in Kenya. The land problem is getting bigger and now it’s not just between African Kenyans but between the descendents of the settlers as well.’
According to Geoffrey Osiba, one family alone – the Kenyattas – owns a third of all Kenyan land. The occupation of land by tea plantations such as those supplying the Unilever group of companies and fruit plantations supplying the likes of Delmonte are coming under popular scrutiny. ‘There is one camp of displaced people right next to the Brooke Bond tea plantation in the Rift Valley. People there are deeply questioning the roots of their displacement,’ says Osiba.
Between Nairobi, Naivasha and Nakuru, faith in a human capacity for regeneration and co-operation remains strong. The spaces where people come together on terms not set by parties or sectarian agendas or temporary partitions are the spaces of hope, with the workplace as a key site
for interaction between people from different backgrounds.
‘If people are working together, if we can agree to co-exist together, then that will influence the negotiation process. If the process goes well, I don’t see why we cannot live together,’ says Osiba. ‘We are working together in the same schools, the same offices, the same workplaces. Damage has been done but we can heal it.’
Kenya’s People’s Parliament is fundraising for a peace caravan and documentary initiative. Contact Kengo at infokengo[at]mail.com to offer support
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History