Grassroots Peacebuilding

John Katunga

Nairobi Peace Initiative (NPI); also serves on the advisory board of Partners for Democratic Change

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

NPI, you seen, then worked from the second track diplomacy to peace building, which as we see it, is to build peace from below and move up. It is an innovative aspect when you deal with high level mediation or high level intervention and you are dealing with community intervention. You have a wealth of information that you can get and what it did for us was to frame our lessons, our learning, and our community wisdom to frame them in front of learning in that we can also offer to other places in Africa. We designed what we called Regional Capacity Building training, it was covered in four sub-Saharan countries in the continent of Africa. We concluded that for central Africa countries, the francophone, the Yaound , in Cameroon Lasse N'Toba. We completed that to share the approach that we had been using, to show how it is relevant, to show that it is relevant from the ground, and it has had good results so people can try it in their own context, to make the analysis of their own context and to see how to adapt those kinds of frameworks that we came up with. I gave you the example of Kenya, but I can give you the example of Ghana within the same period, there was what we called the Guinifour war.

People in the 2 large communities in Northern Ghana, one has chieftain, the other one is without chiefs, known as a cephalous community. In addition whoever had the traditional chief, also had to run those who do not have chief. They might have been there for time???, but since they don't have chief, they can't own land. The perception of the kind of rapport that the chieftain group and the cephalous group had was one of denigration, because the chief looked down upon those who don't have a chief because they don't have land. Those who don't have a chief were largely, by coincidence, Muslim. Those that had chief were largely Christian. When the conflict sparked in the market place between a chieftain representative and a non-chieftain representative it sparked a huge war between the two groups and 2,000 people died and a lot of property was destroyed. Some of our partners in Europe called us and they said, "We have been doing a lot of development work here, and we know you are doing good work in peace. Can you come and help to establish people's relationships here and try to work on reconciliation?" So we intervened there from Nairobi, we moved to Ghana and started to do a lot of consultation, for about 6 months, in the same way, slow paced.

If you are looking for lessons, the peace process is not an event, you don't do it and things disappear, and you don't expect quick results. It's a long-term process. That s the first lesson you learn. If you're funding peace initiatives, you should prepare yourself for a long journey, not a 2 or3 years funding and you disappear. Don't say, "Oh that's enough, I do not see results, so I cut off my support." It doesn't work that way. You need a committed supporter or a company in the process. We work very hard for 9 months, working separately with 2 groups, doing the kinds of things I told you with NCCK, but this time we didn't deliver food, we were just talking. It emerged from the talking that people were willing to come again together, and then sub-?? organizing joint meetings for both parties. We go slow paced, we signed the first accord, allowing people to interact, the second accord, to allow them to cross over the land of the other community, 3rd accord is to allow the people to come and resettle on their property that was destroyed when they were chased away. The 3rd accord is to help each other rebuild and all that. I am saying in a nutshell how the community is bigger than that and any accord that we signed had several kind of clauses that were inside it, giving you the way that it is progressive accord, accumulative accord that is an expanded engagement from being just community centered, not one or two community centered, but larger. At the end of the day, the 2 communities had what they called, Youth Association. What they did during the war, was mobilizing for war. They asked for support abroad and they asked if various people would contribute money to buy guns so that they could continue fighting. The same associations were now working in peace.

Q: Same people, same numbers?

A: Some of them were the same leaders who were previously engaged, but you know the organization moves, there are new people coming in but the spirit is the same. They are now working for peace. These are the kinds of lessons that we share with others of our capacity building program. We have covered, about 24 countries.