ocampo, the rift valley and mau forest

Last week I took a whirlwind tour of the Rift Valley province of Kenya. For two days I accompanied a program office from the NGO that I am working with this summer to Eldoret, Burnt Forest and Timboroa. The purpose of the visit was to assess the progress of peace initiatives in the area – necessitated by the madness of last year’s post-election violence. The evidence on the ground was encouraging. Exclusive ethic zones no longer exist and free movement of people and goods is now possible. That said, tensions still exist as evidenced by the heavy police presence in the region – every few hundred metres on the Eldoret-Timboroa road there are brand new police camps.

Especially risky are the ongoing debates over the prosecution of the masterminds of ethnic violence at the Hague and the resettlement of those currently living in Mau Forest. Given that certain ethnic chiefs of the two quarreling communities are most certainly on the Waki list, some people on the ground favor a local truth and reconciliation commission which, they presume, would be less harsh on the masterminds of violence. But those whose houses were burnt or who lost relatives want real justice and are advocating for the Hague option.

Also tricky is the Mau resettlement debate. Word on the ground is that if certain people are evicted from Mau without compensation, then it will be justified to evict other people who settled in the Rift Valley decades ago outside of their “ethnic homelands.” Knowing how passionate some of those in these areas are, it makes me cringe with fear every time I hear politicians carelessly comment about the impending eviction of those who (il)legally settled in Mau Forest.

The other leg of my journey took me to Nakuru. Driving around Kabarak, visiting Lord Egerton’s Castle, hanging out at Egerton University’s serene botanical garden and dining at Kunste were all topped by the ride back to Nairobi. Next time you are coming back to Nairobi from Nakuru take the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu road. The view of the escarpment on this road is like none other. And Longonot will be right there too, with the baboons, warthogs and other wildlife.

Many thanks to my very good friend, a native of Njoro, who made the Nakuru trip the success that it was.

getting to the field…

Almost two weeks into the NGO world and I must say that I am liking this work. Last week we had a capacity building workshop on advocacy skills training. It was largely successful and I got to meet members of interesting Kenyan civil society organisations (CSOs) from across the nation. My take on the workshop was that Kenyan civil society exists, what’s lacking is clout. They need to have some say in what decisions are made in parliament or state house. This they can only achieve by increasing their membership and general public awareness and by raising cash.

And in order to make these same CSOs more democratic and representative, donors can come up with a system of conditioning their aid on the CSOs raising part of their monies from Kenyans. In this way, the wider a CSO’s Kenyan donor base, the more money they should get. There should of course be exemptions for emergency relief, education, public health programs, among other critical areas. The assumption here is that most CSOs are involved with the political aspects of development.

Tomorrow I head out into the field  for a monitoring and evaluation exercise in Eldoret and Burnt Forest – areas that were affected by the violence that rocked Kenya early last year. I will write a post on the developments concerning peace initiatives there.