As the nation counts days to the August 9 poll, the National Campaign Against Drug Abuse (NACADA) has embarked on efforts to counsel youth against the use of alcohol and drugs, the main causes of violence, so as to realize peaceful elections.
NACADA hosted an educational forum at the Deliverance Church International Eldoret in Uasin Gishu County, which comprised of 500 youth drawn from all the six sub counties of Uasin Gishu under the Sauti Yetu Peace Initiative aimed at encouraging the youth to participate in the election without engaging in alcohol and drug abuse.
Speaking to KNA in a press a briefing, the NACADA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Victor Okioma, said the forum is geared at ensuring the Country would not experience skirmish and violent elections through enlightening the youth against the use of alcohol and drugs during elections, an act he said had been the main cause of violence cases witnessed in the previous elections, especially in the recent hot spot areas mapped by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC).
“As a nation, we have always been faced with insecurity, electoral violence, and disruptions. Recently the Ministry of Interior and NCIC mapped hot spot areas and one of them is Uasin Gishu. As a government body we decided to contribute through educating the youth especially the leaders to ensure peace as we proceed to elections,” said Okioma.
The CEO pointed out that the forum was the first one among the 10 others set to be conducted across counties in Kenya.
“Thursday we will be in Nyamira, Friday in Kisumu, Kericho on Saturday then Central, Mombasa and Kilifi counties later,” he added.
Okioma further noted that the programme aims at giving the youth and their leaders an opportunity, to give opinion on what factors contribute to insecurity, violence and disruptions during elections, who is required to come up with efforts to advocate for peace be it either elders, religious leaders or should it be the youth themselves and what role should youth leaders play in regard to peace building in the society.
“The youth have pointed out poverty, unemployment, tribalism and incitement by politicians as the main causes which make youth indulge in violence,” he said.
The 500 youth were called upon to be peace ambassadors in their various areas while at the same time advocating against use of alcohol and drug abuse to ensure peace is realized before and after elections.
They would be further contacted as monitors in their areas to report on any suspicious incidents of violence that would be going on at their places which may appear to be a threat to peace.
On his part, Uasin Gishu County Commissioner, Stephen Kihara, said they had been engaging the communities across the county as the country prepares for elections, through conducting peace and security meetings up to the location level.
He pointed out that the department of internal security had in collaboration with the multisectoral group been able to educate, to change the understanding of both the religious leaders including the youth that election is an exercise that comes and goes.
“We as the department concerned with security have been working together with the County Government of Uasin Gishu, we have moved around, we have identified areas that require our attention to ensure as campaigns continue, we beef up security, we have already witnessed what happened during nominations when some youths were incited to disrupt the primaries,” said Kihara.
Noting that Uasin Gishu is a cosmopolitan county, the County Commissioner noted that the security personnel had been at the forefront to deliver service impartially to ensure no community may raise accusations of unfairness thus causing violence.
“We have always worked harmoniously bringing together various communities from Nandi, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kisii, Kikuyu, Luhya, Nyanza among others as they carry out their daily activities like business and others. Uasin Gishu County being the Transit centre of the Northern Corridor, there is a need to promote peace,” he said.
Kihara warned the youth from taking alcohol in bars and at the illicit brew dens in order to cause chaos at the political rallies that they will be dealt with in accordance with the law. He added that his department had laid down proper measures to prevent such cases from occurring further during Election Day.
“There are those politicians who buy our youth alcohol to go and cause chaos, we will ensure all bars and mama pimas are closed down on the night before election to ensure no place one can take alcohol to come and disrupt the elections,” warned Kihara.
Present in the event was Uasin Gishu County Secretary, Edwin Bett, who said that the county administration in collaboration with partners like NACADA and others had been focusing on peace building and cohesion through coming up with various programmes to benefit the youth.
“We have partnered with NACADA, Alcohol and Drinks Licencing Board, in terms of licensing, rehabilitation and advocacy, we have also worked closely to raise small funds to support the rehabilitated youth,” said Bett.
In addressing youth unemployment, which had been highlighted as the main cause of insecurity and drug abuse, Bett pointed out that the county government had in 2018 taken 1800 youth to the Rift Valley Training Institute (RVTTI) to acquire self-employment skills through artisan courses like plumbing and others.
He added that other youth were sponsored for the same courses at the Kenya Water Institute while others were taken to study abroad through the Overseas Programme.
“We have also boosted the lives of youth through cooperative societies, we have given them money to undertake Agribusiness, we have given money to Boda Boda to grow their businesses,” he added.
The forum also encompassed a section of religious and community elders who unequivocally condemned alcoholism and drug abuse among the current generation.
The Uasin Gishu County Interfaith Council, and also the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) Chairperson, Sheikh Abubakar Bini, exclaimed that alcohol and drug abuse among the youth is a threat to peace and development as they are the future of the nation.
In his remarks the Chairperson of the Kenya National Council of Elders Major John Seii praised the youth as the inheritance the country has had since colonial time and they are the ones mandated to propel the country forward in terms of development.
He warned that the youth should shun away from alcohol and drug abuse to ensure peace is witnessed in the country before and after elections.
Seii urged youth to embrace peace, unity and cohesion as the country waits for election which is the fulfilment of the constitutional calendar. He additionally opposed claims that Uasin Gishu is a hot spot county.
“So young people since you are from different communities and that August 9th is knocking at the door, I give you the power, I give the authority to be the ambassadors of peace in our County called Uasin Gishu,” said Major Seii
“This country is our home, this county is our home, we as elders, people in government, men and women of good will, Uasin Gishu is not a hot spot county, you are the inheritance of our grandfathers,” he added.
By Ekuwam Sylvester and Chemutai Korir