The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is banking on youths in the restive areas of Rift Valley region to be advocates of peace for peaceful campaigns and elections for the country.
NCIC Commissioner Sam Kona says the deliberate partnership between the Commission and youths seeks to lock out divisive politicians that were keen on using youths to destabilize the country during the elections season.
Kona said the arrangement mooted with NACADA and other partners seek to use sports, theatre and other genres of art to empower youth with information about peace building, civil rights and community engagement ahead of the general elections that are less than a year away.
He was speaking at Njoro stadium Tuesday, where he commissioned football matches for youth from the volatile Naissuit, Mauche and Oluposimoru triangle along the Nakuru-Narok common border.
The match coincided with the International Peace Day which sought to create awareness about togetherness in an equitable and sustainable world.
The Commissioner noted that the yearlong programme comes to complement the Commission`s quest to diffuse simmering tension in troubled areas of the Rift Valley as the political class forge pre-election alliances ahead of the general polls.
He observed that as politicians created political coalitions in the cosmopolitan region, they were likely to misuse jobless and misinformed youths as agents of coercion against their opponents, a move the Commission feared may stir discord in the region.
Citing the undue interruption of public engagements of politician Jimmy Wanjigi and Deputy President William Ruto`s in Migori and Nyeri Counties recently, Kona said such incidents of intolerance pointed to an increasingly toxic political discourse that if untamed, may negate meaningful peace building initiatives ahead of the polls.
Kona urged youth to enroll and participate in the programmes as a way of warding off self-seeking politicians whom he said were hell-bent on crippling the country as it limps out of the devastating Coronavirus pandemic.
The Commissioner appealed for tolerance in opinion during campaigns and cautioned politicians against making utterances that could polarize the country saying division against a backdrop of a critical election next year was bound to reverse gains achieved through painstaking peace building initiatives.
He used the opportunity to challenge youth to interrogate their political idols on their track records and vision for the country instead of acting as handy tools for the politicians’ egocentric interests.
Further, Kona said NCIC is monitoring and documenting political engagements in the region with a view of identifying hate mongers and their collaborators for subsequent prosecution.
He called on members of the public to help the Commission and security agencies in the area in the bid arguing that in a country that aspires to become a middle-income economy like Kenya, peace building is a collective responsibility.
On his part, Nakuru County Commissioner Erastus Mbui commended the initiative saying it comes as a bonus to efforts by security teams in the restive area along the Nakuru and Narok common border to bring feuding communities together to foster peace, cohesion and integration and pave way for development.
He said cross border conflict in the areas within the infamous triangle has stunted development and uprooted hundreds of people from their homes.
Youthful participants from Narok and Nakuru County commended the programme saying it would enable youths from both sides to mingle and find a common ground on common issues.
They appealed to the Commission and partners to expand and sustain the activities beyond the election to enable more young people to benefit.
By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto