Evaluating peace work

•July 13, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“There is no clear definition of what constitutes ‘success’ in conflict resolution, so how do we know when an intervention has been successful?” – Church and Shouldice Framing the State of Play, 6, 50-51.

Wrapping up our last week with Peace-Cop it seems most logical to step back and ask whether all of their activities including Peace Monitors, conflict mapping, peace committees, and workshops are actually achieving their stated goals of increasing community policing and harmonious relations within the Rift Valley. As Church and Shouldice highlight above, this can be tricky.

Most importantly, organizations promoting conflict resolution and peacebuilding must set reasonable goals. (See, for example, Manuela Leonhardt 2003).

Peace-Cop has done just that. Rather than lofty though laudable goals of eradicating violence throughout Kenya or reconciling centuries of ethnically oriented political patronage, Peace-Cop understands its mandate and its limits.  Furthermore, without explicitly acknowledging the theoretical underpinnings, Peace-Cop effectively employs theories of change to guide their work and measure success.  For a more thorough explanation of theories of change, see, for example, this DFID Briefing Paper on working effectively in conflict-affected or fragile situations.

The “individual change theory argues peace is achieved “through transformative change of a critical mass of individuals, their consciousness, attitudes, behaviors, and skills.” Peace-Cop’s workshops for district peace committee members on how personal and collective attitudes and behaviors affect conflict and peace.

Regarding the reduction of violence theory which posits that “peace results from a reduction in the level of violence perpetrated by combatants,” Peace-Cop’s training sessions include non-violent techniques and small-arms collection and reduction is one of their activities in the far North Rift.

Finally, utilizing the healthy relationships and connections theory which argues “peace comes from breaking down isolation, polarization, division, prejudice and stereotypes between/among groups,” DPCs, with support from Peace-Cop, PPF and the District Officer, have recently organized inter-community “Peace Days”. Magadi Division offered just one such example.

Unfortunately there is a lack of consistent reporting, baseline understanding and follow-up activities that might make answering the question above a bit easier. One of our most important recommendations to Peace-Cop is that they increase, formalize and institutionalize a monitoring and evaluation process within their work. Indeed, Peace-Cop director Mark is well aware of this problem, and positive steps are being taken to improve reporting procedures and to conduct more baseline surveys regarding conflict patterns and perceptions of peace and peacebuilding.

However, we do have a good amount of anecdotal evidence in support of Peace-Cop’s activities. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one local community leader in Magadi Division proudly reported that since Peace-Cop had started the district peace committees and put Peace Monitors in place, there had not been any incidents of cattle-rustling.  The existence of the Peace Day itself, speaks highly of Peace-Cop’s activities. Not only was this the first time many of these different tribes had come together, they did so to celebrate peace in a particular place that once saw a vicious battle between many of them in the 1970s.

Communities in Laikipia in the Central Rift came together to celebrate three years of living peacefully earlier this week, as reported in the Standard.  Though Peace-Cop is not specifically mentioned in the article, we do know that Peace-Cop operates programs there, and that they like to keep a low profile.

Ultimately, it is unlikely that conflict will cease entirely in the Rift Valley any more than conflict will cease entirely anywhere in the world.  It does appear, however, that Peace-Cop’s activities have improved community policing initiatives and overall security in the areas where they operate.  Perhaps most importantly, Peace-Cop is keenly aware of the need to evaluate their own programs, and ensure that they are keeping to their mission of improving the security, livelihood and overall development of people in the Rift Valley.

Gender and perceptions of peace

•July 11, 2011 • 1 Comment

My time at Peace-Cop has highlighted two distinct but important aspects of conflict resolution and gender.  The first is the propensity of people who go into conflict resolution in the U.S. to be female, and the second is the importance of women’s participation in peacebuilding.

As expected, this year’s incoming class of CR students is overwhelmingly female.  In general, outside of CR practitioners and a few others, I’ve found that most people in the U.S. cringe a little when they hear the term itself. “Oh, you mean like sitting around singing kumbaya? Give peace a chance and all that?” they often ask.  Within the Georgetown world, it is the security studies program where you’ll find a male-dominated classroom, filled largely with either military personnel or defense contractors.

It’s different in Kenya.

Not what you'd necessarily expect

Upon being introduced to someone a few weeks ago as students of conflict resolution and CR, our new acquaintance immediately asked Tierney and me if were planning on joining the military when we finished our program. Not quite, we replied.

Conflict resolution, conflict management and peacebuilding in Kenya are largely under the purview of the Administration Police and the military.  Yes, of course, NGOs have an important role to play, as, crucially do communities in conflict themselves. Genesis Arts Creation, however, has one female staff member; she answers phones and makes tea. Peacebuilding is seen almost entirely through the lens of security.  Whether because security institutions deal most directly with conflict, or because there is simply a cultural conception of peacebuilding as a security-oriented activity isn’t as clear. However, it is a striking difference from perceptions in the U.S.

And now on to the role of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Last year saw the tenth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, dedicated to the involvement of women in peace processes. Among other clauses, it includes:

“Expressing  concern that civilians, particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict, including as refugee s and  internally displaced persons,  and increasingly  are targeted by combatant s  and  armed  elements,  and recognizing the consequent  impact  this has on durable  peace  and  reconciliation,

Reaffirming  the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts  and  in peace -building,  and  stressing  the  importance  of  the ir  equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and the need to increase their role in decision-making withregard to conflict prevention and resolution…”

women (and children) at Magadi Division Peace Day

Happily, particularly because it is so male-dominated, Peace-Cop has fully embraced the inclusion of women in the peacebuilding process in the Rift Valley. There are still gaps, to be sure, but these are tied to larger societal norms about women, politics and power. We have not met any women District or Provincial Commissioners, for example, and, owing to a shortage in the AP in general there are few female Peace-Cop peace monitors. However, women account for an important part of all the community-elected peace committees, and in conversations with Peace-Cop staff, it is clear that their commitment to encouraging women’s involvement in the peace process is sincere.



Early warning indicators

•July 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Reading the daily Standard has generally been a depressing affair every morning.  At least one corruption story involving a prominent and sitting minister headlines more often than not.  Couple those with rising food prices, refugees flooding in from bordering nations, slum expansions and bouts of violent crime, and, as Tierney remarked last week: this newspaper is basically a CR textbook case study of indicators of impending conflict.  Luckily, she saved one particularly explicit newspaper and so I refer you to her post.

It’s hard to miss the signs. I met this weekend with a friend from middle school who is in Nairobi writing a book arguing that international development aid can be more effective by targeting small-scale, homegrown initiatives.  “I’m a little bit worried about the election next year,” she said. “Should I be?”

Well, let’s see.  Among many, many others, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael has developed a set of indicators. They roughly break down into the categories of: demographic, economic, policy-related, social, and external factors.  According to Massimo Fusato, Clingendael has found that military and political factors (say, an election) “serve as triggers for the outbreak of violent conflict” while economic and social indicators “reflect the societal background conditions that encourage discontent and political mobilization.”

Let’s start with the economic indicators:

  • Short-term and long-term changes in economic performance of a country or a region
  • Increase in poverty or inequality
  • Rise of unemployment rate
  • Economic shocks or financial crises

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to give this list a check, check, check, check.  In the month we’ve been here the Kenyan shilling has done quite a bit of noticeable yo-yoing, but hanging in the downward direction. Kenya Central Bank statements were relatively vague and did little to assuage public fears.

Half-finished home projects outside Nakuru

Along with this shock, the price of maize, a staple of the Kenyan diet has sky-rocketed. Moreover, many suspect political motivation behind the shortage.  Sugar is also being rationed.  Increase in prices without an increase in wages obviously puts people at risk for crossing the poverty line.










And now for a couple social indicators:

  • A rise in “societal” intolerance and prejudice
  • An increase in numbers of demonstrations or rallies

As potential 2012 presidential candidates start gearing up for their elections, there are murmurings and sometimes outright ethnically driven messages starting to seep into community and political gatherings. Most of this is anecdotal evidence from informal conversations for now, but I’d put money on it getting worse.

Finally, as the Ministry of Education was consumed in corruption charges last month, the teachers’ unions and others started regularly protesting outside the Statehouse over the fulfillment of their salary and pension payments. Local governments throughout the country, too, have threatened protests over their salaries being paid on time. True, it’s a small segment of the population, but again, my bet’s on this being the tip of the iceberg.



Magadi Division Peace Day June 23

•June 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

One of the most interesting aspects of the Magadi Division Field Day was how much the community has embraced Peace-Cop and the fluidity of Peace-Cop’s activities and traditional conflict resolution processes. To the chagrin of at least one or two AP Peace-Cop officers, a couple members of the peace committees identify themselves as “Peace-Cop”, though they are clearly not Administration Police officers.

The way I see it, such a self-identification actually indicates a measure of success.  Two of the biggest problems confronting the marriage of traditional community conflict resolution processes and those with Western influence usually directed from the top down (like Peace-Cop) are: a lack of relevance of the latter on the former and a lack of sustainability and community ownership when the latter is imposed.  For a community-selected peace committee member to identify himself as such, then, indicates Peace-Cop has managed to preach its peaceful gospel in a way that comports well enough with existing structures that ensures not only that the message is heard, but absorbed as well.

Peace-Cop director Mark presented with Maasai necklace

Magadi Division Peace Day helped recognize and formalize the peacebuilding activities of the past half year or so.  Peace-Cop and the formerly cattle-rustling, conflicting clans organized Peace Day to bring together five different communities that had each created peace committees and early warning and peacebuilding strategies.  None, however, had shared their experiences with each other.  Such a collaboration of songs and dances infused with messages of peace and harmony was unprecedented.

Though we’re still tracking down some of the Swahili-English translations, the overall message of the day was hard to miss.  “The devil would  fear this place,” sang the group of pre-teen school girls who provided one of about 8 different acts, “because everyone here is for peace.”

"the devil would fear this place"

“It’s our brothers, sons and uncles who are fighting, the sang, but we are suffering too,” sang a group of older women. It’s time to stop the fighting.

Local officials including the District Officer shared words of support.  Community elders and Peace-Cop officers in full uniform didn’t hesitate to insert themselves into the welcoming arms of performers and add their own dance moves.

Peace-Cop officer joining the dancing









Even in the afternoon heat, the attention spans of the couple hundreds of people who had gathered to see the entertainment and hear the speeches held for a few hours.









One of the most interesting acts, if you will, was a cooperative drama production representing a condensed version of the conflict between the communities.  Using a large branch to represent a “border”, two groups of men representing different clans began arguing over where it should be placed.  A few kicks of the border and sticks were raised against each other.  Finally, after much shouting and club wielding,  it was agreed, they would go see the “district officer” and Peace-Cop, represented by community members behind a school desk.

Tellingly, people in the audience were nodding in agreement, and seemingly laughing at the absurdity that such an issue -this treebranch border – should be the cause of so much of conflict. Actors representing elders worked with the actors representing Peace-Cop and the D.O. and *presto* the problem was solved. Success!

dramatic representation of the conflicting communities going to the District Officer

Though this ten minute version of conflicts over land and grazing rights  that have existed for centuries may not capture all the nuances, it did bring things up to the present: communities joining to present their shared version of conflicts that, at least for the moment, seem to be put on hold.

Magadi Division field visit

•June 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Tierney and I spent the majority of this week in Nguruman, Magadi Division, an area where both cattle-rustling and inter-tribal tensions flourish and also a fairly large Peace-Cop presence. And what a week it was. I hope it doesn’t sound condescending to say that I was completely impressed by what Peace-Cop has been able to achieve in Magadi. I’m going to try to spread our experiences there over a few posts, as I have more time to process and analyze everything.

Magadi Division, at least the conflict-ridden areas, is almost entirely inhabited by Maasai herding communities. Within the Maasai community there are numerous sub-clans, each who have their own chiefs, sub-structures, slightly differing traditions and community practices. Central to the pastoralist lifestyle, naturally, is the need for grazing land and water for your animals.  And herein lies the root of most of the conflicts between Maasai clans. Disputes over grazing-area borders are commonplace and can often escalate, resulting in the ubiquitous cattle/goats/sheep raid. Though these raids have existed, as many Peace-Cops have noted, “since time immemorial”, the introduction of AK-47s and rifles has made human lives unfortunately common collateral damage.  In addition to death and destruction, the raids often incur retaliation raids. Who is retaliating against whom has in many cases been lost.

Between October and December last year, Peace-Cop initiated a community policing, conflict management and peacebuilding plan.  On paper, it looked great, and we were eager to see it in action. On the ground, too, it was clear that Peace-Cop has methodologically figured out the conflicts, the trends, and how they can be of assistance. Moreover, they’ve helped formalize existing community structures in a way that has promoted ownership and sustainability.

AP camp in Kajaido

In fact, since the “peace committees” started, we were proudly told by a local businessman who works closely with Peace-Cop, there have been no incidents to report.

Peace-Cop, said director Mark, took things slowly. They spent the first few months just getting to know the community. They met with everyone they could, making sure to meet community elders and chiefs – traditionally responsible for conflict resolution. After the two-hour ridiculously dusty car-ride to the middle of absolutely nowhere, with nothing but animal bones and some sparse acacia trees adorning the 29-hut Manyata, it’s clear that Peace-Cop has left no corner uninvolved. People know Peace-Cop. People like Peace-Cop. People seem to trust Peace-Cop.

One of the more remote Peace-Cop outreach posts

The next phase was identifying and selecting representatives from the community to serve as “peace-committees.” Clans held barazas to select, as a community, who would represent them. In a country where corruption trickles up, down  and sideways through all levels of society, this community selection was an important component, rather than having the chief or elders simply appoint their friend. These peace-committees in turn worked with Peace-Cop on early warning and peacbuilding plans.

We’re still not back to Nakuru where I have the useful and relevant documents that will make this post far more interesting, so I’ll leave it for now until we get back.

Total lunar eclipse

•June 17, 2011 • 1 Comment

In other news, there was a total lunar eclipse on Wednesday night which was completely breathtaking.

“We are here to capacity-build you as a person.”

•June 17, 2011 • 2 Comments

In my last post, I mentioned that while the conflict management and peacebuilding workshop was full of textbook trigger words there was a lack of concrete activities that constituted “capacity building” or “empowering.” Well, yesterday I found the answer.

In response to the poultry-project induced conflicts between and within the IDP and host communities in Pipeline, Genesis Arts Creations (GAC) is hosting a three-day “character-building” workshop.

“We are here to capacity build you as a person,” went the tagline.

Recall: In partnership with GAC, the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention (JCCP) had provided funds for a joint IDP-host community poultry-project aimed at bringing the mistrusting communities together in an income-generating activity. Funds were supposedly mismanaged. Chicken went missing. Suspicion grew between and within each communtiy. People want to split the chicken and go their separate ways. JCCP assured them the funding will be pulled if they do. A solution is needed, say the sponsors, that brings people together again.

What ensued was something vaguely reminiscent of a self esteem/attitudes/curriculum I remember from middle school.  Sessions touched on issues including peer pressure, societal and familial expectations, decision-making, etc.

How is this going to resolve the poultry problems?  It’s all part of the process, say our hosts.

Bear with me while I try to apply some CR theory and Galtung triangulation to what’s going on here. Sadly, I’m not tech savvy enough to make a triangle, so here’s my poorman’s version:  /\.  In one corner we have attitudes, in one behaviors, and in one context/contradiction.

At present, unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about changing the context. For the foreseeable future, the IDPs will be living alongside the host community. So what GAC and JCCP are trying to do  is transform first the attitudes of the conflicting residents and then, hopefully, their behavior towards each other.

Given the mistrust that existed between the communities before the poultry project and the mistrust within the communities it bred, GAC felt an attitude adjustment would be helpful.  By imparting “character education” regarding the impact of peer pressure and groupthink thereon, hopefully, people may be willing to reevaluate and again trust their neighbors. In turn, this will change the negative behaviors of poultry pilfering and the like.

Will it work? Did people just come for the free lunch?

Perhaps because I had similar set of sessions when I was a teenager, I am a bit skeptical. It’s one thing to have peer educators or even adults address a room of teenagers about decision-making and attitude adjustments. But most of the participants are adults, some even had children there. Though appreciative of the initial efforts of GAC and JCCP, these projects ended up causing more problems. Why then, should anyone be taking character education lessons from these very same people?

I hate sounding like a cynic (most of the time), and I certainly hope these efforts do make a difference. Again, I guess, we’ll just have to see.

“We aren’t taking any chances this time”

•June 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

Or, “Kenya wins the institutionalization of peacebuilding award.”

“We all remember what happened in the last elections,” Mr. M., head of the Provincial Peacebuilding Forum in Nakuru told me and Tierney lastweek, “we aren’t taking any chances this time.”

Indeed, it appears the whole of Kenya is not.  In response to the 2007/2008 post-election violence (PEV), the Kenyan government seemingly devoured a standard conflict resolution master’s program and applied it to the national government and grassroots workshops EVERYWHERE.  Here’s a quick diagram of the formal, institutional peacebuilding structure in Kenya:

National Steering Committee on Peacebuilding and Conflict Management (NSC)


National peace Forum (Nairobi)


Provincial Peace Forum (PPF) (8 Provinces)


District Peace Committees (DPC) (68 Districts)


Divisional Peace Committees


Locational Peace Committees

(grassroots, including councils of elders and other traditional conflict resolution methods)

(The Administration Police, of which Peace-Cop is a research and practical component is a national security organ and member of both the NSC and the Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons)

The Workshop was part of the "Driving Ethnicity Away from Rift Valley" Project

Over the past two days, Tierney and I attended a peacebuilding workshop designed for youth leaders of the Rongai region hosted by Genesis Arts (see previous posts), the Nakuru PPF, and other community-based organizations.  Any semi-attendant CR student will see that the workshop was essentially a crash-course in Conflict Resolution Theory and Skills. (Although perhaps Galtung, Lederach and Burton would be disappointed with the lack of bibliography).  Seminar sessions included: early warning and crisis prevention, monitoring and evaluation of peace projects, gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding and community-based theater in peacebuilding.  Each session started with the core theoretical and basic concepts and then moved into a discussion how to apply these principles to Kenya generally and Rongai specifically.

familiar-looking conflict curve

Though being the diligent CR students we are Tierney and I were already familiar with most of the theoretical material it was fascinating and informative to see it applied to Kenya.

Without reliving the workshop verbatim (in part because I just didn’t get most of the Swahili) I’d like to pull out some highlights:

As the “epicenter of of all conflict: ethnic, tribal and political” the Rift Valley, presenters argued, was the most logical place for peacebuilding workshops.  Host to both IDPs – remnants of the PEV- and continual and cyclical tribally-motivated cattle-rustling attacks, the Rift Valley certainly has more than its fair share of disputes and violent conflicts. Though the workshop was designed to impart knowledge about peacebuilding that could be applied to any of these situations, discussions always came back to the PEV and promoting peacebuilding and conflict management strategies in anticipation of the 2012 elections.

Certainly the two underlying themes of the workshop were the importance of civil society in both preventing conflict and promoting positive peacebuilding and the underlying tribal tensions that drive conflict in Kenya. (I’m going to come back to that latter theme in a later post.) Also important is the “TOT” or Train the Trainers approach.  As all participants were leaders of various youth groups and communities in Rongai, they are expected to bring what they learn at this workshop back to their communities.

Both Mark, the director of Peace-Cop and the two presenters from the PPF stressed the role of youth and civil society in promoting peacebuilding as part of a legacy of youth movements that had shaped Kenya since the struggle for independence.  “We have answered the call and become the protagonists of change,” said Mercy. “We have answered the call by being here.”

Most, if not all of the participants stressed that politicians drive the ethnic/tribal conflict that plagues Kenya. Underlying issues of land and resources may be at the root of many Kenyan conflicts, but these only escalate into violence, many argued, when politicians come campaigning and stoking strident ethnic and tribal nationalism. This being the case, agreed presenters and participants, it is in the hands of community leaders to take preventive, positive peacebuilding activities before the ardent 2012 election campaigning gets any more underway.

Phrases including  “capacity building” “empowerment” and “knowledge” were all thrown around at an impressive rate, but to me there were few pragmatics or specifics about what “building capacity” “empowering women to be decision-makers” would actually look like.  Naturally, these textbook/USAID-grant trigger words are important, but the final success of the workshop will lie in the participants’ abilities to actualize them in their own communities.

Why did the giraffe cross the road?

•June 11, 2011 • Leave a Comment

To get away from the lion, of course.

Since we were supposed to work today (there was a bureaucratic petrol snafu which ultimately canceled the work day, unfortunately), a few Peace-Cop staff took us to Lake Nakuru National Park yesterday.  Quite happily, they were able to waive the entrance fee for us in the name of cross-cultural peacebuilding.

Although we spent the majority of the morning overwhelmed by our surroundings, there is no escaping conflict resolution in Kenya.  After our drive we went to thank the warden (yes, warden) of the Park for his hospitality.  After expressing general sentiments of welcome the first words out of his mouth were “I think you’ll find that Kenya is a very peaceful country with very hospitable people.” The media, he said, likes to portray Kenya as a violent, conflict-ridden state. But really, he continued, Kenya is a beautiful country filled with peaceful people and beautiful wildlife.  While I can’t say the facts totally and completely corroborate the first part of his assertion any more than they do anywhere else in the world, there is no doubt about the second.

White rhino (photo courtesy Tierney)

zebras and stork(?)

Lion and giraffes! (photo credit Tierney)

giraffe crossing the road (photo credit Tierney)

baby baboons!

Oh it’s a week day?

•June 9, 2011 • 2 Comments

…let’s just have an Administration Police Track and Field day instead.

Yeah, that’s probably a better idea.

AP Field Day

AP Field Day

Also, in case the Olympics and every major American marathon hadn’t made the point abundantly clear, Kenyans run fast. Really, really fast.

The high/lowlight of the day was probably when the commentator announced to the 3 or 4oo people in the stands that they were all honored to be joined by two Americans from Georgetown University in the U.S.

“They are very friendly, feel free to shake their hands and ask them questions.”

Well, I guess I know how the giraffes feel now.