News 2008


Let’s give peace in Kenya a chance (message from former US Ambassador)

Written by Prudence Bushnell

February 12, 2008: I spent three years in Kenya as US Ambassador. I shed blood and tears with Kenyans after al Qaeda blew up the American embassy in 1998 killing 213 people and injuring over 5,000.

Children at a displacement camp watch food cooking.

I argued with political leaders, laughed with friends and joined forces with the thousands of women and men seeking greater participation, more prosperity and less corruption. Kenyans are a diverse people of more than 42 ethnic groups, proud of their past and determined to create a better future. Don’t write them off.

There is nothing new about disputed elections and fights over positional leadership in Africa, nor in the response of our government and media. Once again, feuding politicians and rampaging gangs get the spotlight. What is new and largely unattended by officials and press, are the peacemaking efforts of Kenyan citizens exercising their own personal leadership.

We already know what the political contestants are doing — the same thing they always do — sip tea with visiting officials pleading to put national interest over self.

It is about time we learned what citizen peacemakers are doing. The Association of Media Women in Kenya is transversing the country to bring attention to local peacemaking efforts.

Inter-faith associations are bringing people of all ethnic groups together. Concerned Citizens for Peace and other parts of civil society are campaigning with plans to address Kenyan problems.

Cyberactivists are using mash-ups, blogs, cell phones, Face Book and You-tube to relay information, seek assistance and disseminate hope. Red Cross and relief organizations are mobilizing their members.

Anyone who wants to do more than cluck despairingly about yet another African country heading down the tubes can help to give peace in Kenya a chance. Media can report the peace efforts.

US officials can request that politicians articulate their strategies to build and sustain peace. Business clubs and professional associations can reach out to their counterparts.

International figures can highlight women peacemakers, underscoring the importance of UN Resolution 1325 which calls for more women’s participation at every stage of conflict resolution. If nothing else, individuals can send support via internet.

A decade has passed since al Qaeda’s mass murder but I doubt that anyone in Nairobi that day has forgotten Rose Wanjiku. She reflected the hope, resilience and solidarity of the Kenyan people as she struggled to survive under the rubble of Ufundi House.

Her ethnicity was irrelevant. She was “Kenya’s Rose,” a fitting symbol to the growing peace efforts today. Rose died; peace in Kenya need not.