Open dialogues, educational workshops and voucher programs are helping disputing communities to come back together and resume normal relationships.
Photo by John Meshack Rotich for CRS
By Debbie DeVoe, CRS
Although the post-election conflict in Kenya has ended, the impact of the brutal violence continues to be deeply felt.
Caritas immediately began responding when the crisis erupted, initially working with affected dioceses to provide emergency food, water and essential household items to displaced families.
Now Caritas continues to support affected communities by providing a complementary set of services to help families reconcile with neighbors, return home if desired and restart farming
Caritas members are supporting forums to bring disputing residents together to discuss issues. Diocesan peace and justice teams first hold discussions with members of each ethnic group involved in a conflict. The various ethnic groups are then brought together to discuss their differences in a safe arena and explore avenues for forgiveness and reconciliation.
Caritas diocesan partners provide counseling, workshops on sexual and gender-based violence, and sanitation training. These activities are helping residents to heal after the post-election violence and to improve community health.
Since the inception of these programs, dioceses are reporting a greater willingness among women to report rape and seek justice.
A police officer in the Kitale diocese also stated that cases of domestic quarrels and spousal abuse have drastically decreased after counseling activities began.
Especially important due to the ongoing food crisis, Caritas members are helping Kenyan farmers return to their fields, supporting two large projects to assist more than 10,000 families.
In October, CRS (one of the Caritas members in the USA), CAFOD (the Caritas agency of England and Wales), and the dioceses of Nakuru and Kericho began helping 4,500 of these families to restart agricultural activities in the Rift Valley.
"Communities that raised arms against each other are slowly reconciling," says Grace Ndugu, Catholic Relief Services' justice and peace-building manager in Kenya.
"By working together, aid agencies, partners and the Kenyan government are helping affected people to rebuild their lives and a culture of peace."
Each family—selected by their own communities based on displacement and other needs—receives about $200 worth of vouchers, funded by the European Union. The families then use the vouchers to purchase seeds, tools, fertilizer and small livestock from approved vendors, who in turn receive cash for the vouchers from diocesan partners.
"This project is not only helping thousands of families affected by the post-election violence in Kenya to grow critical food, but is also helping communities to reconcile," explains Massimo Altimari, emergency coordinator for CRS Kenya.
"When we first started working with affected communities, tensions were quite high among disputing residents. Now they have come together to help identify beneficiaries and support project activities, helping them to resume normal relationships."
Debbie DeVoe is CRS' regional information officer in East Africa based in Nairobi. She recently visited Rift Valley sites still deeply affected by the post-election violence.