Civil society groups have partnered with local media outlets in Nakuru to organize sporting activities in a campaign aimed at enhancing peace before, during and after the August 9th General Election.
Among the associations involved in the campaign dubbed ‘Tunza Amani-Elections Zitakwisha-Sports 4 Peaceful Coexistence’, include Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance (CEDGG), Midrift-Hurinet, Youth Bila Noma and Radio Yetu among others.
According to the campaign’s coordinator Mr. Shem Kariuki, the organizations are also collaborating towards the realization of the institutions’ other shared objectives such as promoting civic awareness and national values through civic education and other modes of advocacy and national reconciliation.
Through the initiative, five football tournaments have already been held in Nakuru Town West and Nakuru Town Sub-Counties with other sporting activities scheduled to take place in all the 11 Sub-Counties in the coming weeks.
“We settled for sport because of its unique power to attract, mobilize and inspire. Its built-in values – teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game – can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence during and after elections,” Kariuki said.
He revealed that the over 200 youths involved in various sporting activities during the campaign have been assigned mentors to equip them with knowledge in peace and conflict resolution.
“Sportsmen participating in the soccer competition and team officials are being used as ambassadors to talk to their compatriots and communities on the need to coexist peacefully and be able to resolve conflicts that may occur among individuals or groups.
“We are having conversations geared towards leading us to a society with sound morals, we want our youths to be the lead agents on issues of integrity, peace building, and conflict resolutions,” the coordinator added.
The venture, Kariuki noted is also promoting development of leadership skills and sharing of ideas on income generating activities that would empower the youth participating in the campaign.
He further indicated that apart from enhancing social cohesion sporting activities were creating teamwork which was effective in countering violent extremism among the youth.
“We are also leveraging on the power of sport to drive social change, community development and foster peace and understanding as a way of dissuading the youth from being conscripted into organized criminal gangs and terrorist groups. Sporting activities are helping build trust and break the stereotypes existing among them,” the coordinator stated.
Captain of Gicheha Football Club Mr. Julius Too stated that young people should engage in sports to nurture their talent, avert drug and substance abuse and discourage tribalism and violent extremism.
“In sports we don’t compete as criminal gangs or tribes but we just engage, for example in football, athletics, wrestling, and many other sports activities for the sake of enjoyment and thrilling our fans. When sportsmen lose, they take it positively, well aware that there is a next time. Politicians should do the same. We want to use sports to create awareness because it is one thing that cuts across,” he said.
He said most youth were wrongly being exploited by politicians after being paid a little money, bought a meal and alcohol to disrupt rallies and polling. Mr. Too observed that it was important for young Kenyans to learn about electoral law, their rights and how and where to report electoral malpractices and violence.
Many youth, the captain observed, do not understand the laws, code of ethics and peace charter of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).
“We believe youth are in a good position to explain to their fellows the importance of peace and what action the law will take if they engage in violence,” stated Mr. Too.
Ex-Football Club Manager Mr. Kennedy Mugavi revealed that all the participants in the sporting activities had signed a charter pledging to adhere to the Constitution, practice and advocate for political decency, use of the language of peace and exclusivity, respect and cultural sensitivity in public and private spaces.
Mugavi said youths should realize that politicians who use them to perpetuate violence have no agenda for them: “They will use you to ascend to power and that is it.”
He called on his counterparts not to be swayed into divisive politics by rogue politicians, saying that they should learn to say no and be peace advocates before and after the elections.
“As a youth, you should not be used by political aspirants who are seeking various elective positions to cause chaos, instead you should be agents of peace,” said the club manager.
He encouraged politicians to be mindful of their actions, saying women and children are the ones who are affected gravely, when violence occurs during or after elections.
“Let us be mindful about our people’s lives, especially of our mothers and children and ensure their safety during this electioneering period,” he said.
Mugavi urged Kenyans to shun intolerance and antagonism during the electioneering period and instead embrace peace for posterity.
“It is clear voting happens on a single day. It is just an event. People should be able to go back to their businesses, immediately after. Children should be able to go to school without fearing that the prevailing peace will collapse,” he said.
Elections, he emphasized, should not lead to social disruptions and unnecessary tensions, which are likely to have a long-lasting effect on the economy.
By Anne Mwale and Elizabeth Simiyu