District Peace Committees
What the project is about
Conflict and development are linked in a relationship that is both complex and multifaceted. The development process itself generates new conflicts by changing the dynamics of economic, financial and political power. The inevitable competition and conflict over the direction, resources and distribution of development, if not well-managed, can impede development and at worst, can reverse it if violence breaks out. It is clear that lasting peace and sustainable development often depend on an additional variable: the extent to which key sectors and groups are able to reach a stable consensus on national priorities; negotiate mutually agreed upon solutions to emerging disputes before violent tensions emerge; and accommodate diversity in the planning and execution of the development enterprise.
In order to strengthen development, promote democratic processes and prevent instability, it is imperative to ensure that better processes and mechanisms for consensus building and dispute resolution are in place. This requires long-term, systematic efforts to raise awareness and impart skills and strengthen institutions that will enable government and civil society officials to respond to crises more effectively, bolster existing peace processes and create mechanisms and procedures through which crises can be solved non-violently – in other words, to develop a ‘national infrastructure’ with these requisite capacities.
National security sector reforms are currently on-going particularly in the aftermath of the post elections violence crisis and as part of the institutional reforms envisaged under agenda 4 of the National Accord. The Kenya Police Force including the administration police and other security agencies are set to benefit from the changes recommended by the Tasks Force on Police Reforms. The government with the support of development partners and CSOs set up a National Secretariat for Conflict Management and Peace building (NSC) with a mandate to coordinate peace building and conflict management interventions in Kenya. In response to the post elections violence in 2007/2008, there is a growing recognition and institutionalization of traditional and community based peace structures for example the District and Local Peace Committees. The National Draft Policy for Peace building and conflict management also seeks to strengthen emerging national peace architecture.
The District Peace Committees are borrowed from the Ghana model, where a vibrant system of ‘local peace committees’ and traditional mediation has helped the country contain the fall-out from violent chieftaincy-related conflicts, and sustain development in many communities. Ghana has now elevated this system to the level of ‘national peace architecture’, which was instrumental in ensuring a peaceful political transition following national elections in December 2008. In Kenya, ‘district peace committees’ kept post-elections violence from spreading to the normally volatile Northern and Coast provinces during early 2008, even as Rift Valley and Nyanza, where these structures did not normally exist, experienced large-scale violence. Subsequently, the peace agreement mediated by Kofi Annan mandated such structures for all the country’s districts.