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Kenya's Youth and the Hard Road to Post-Election Reconciliation

In Kenya, the task to resettle thousands of people displaced during the country’s post-December 27-election violence has begun. Military trucks and buses have been moving people back to their villages and communities, particularly in the western part of the country where much of the violence occurred.

With resettlement comes the task of reconciliation and forgiveness among Kenya’s ethnic groups. Stellamaris Mulaeh is the global youth coordinator for Religions for Peace and a conflict resolution activist. She told VOA that in other for genuine reconciliation to take place in Kenya, it will have to begin with the youths since many of them were either affected or blamed for much of the post-election violence.

“One of the biggest challenges that we face in Kenya is that religious leaders were as well as divided as any other part of the community. And my responsibility as the global youth coordinator for the organization is to see how we help young people to come together and play a key role in peace building and reconciliation because they were part of the problem. So I think as religious for peace we have a critical role in bringing together young people. First to admit that yes they did a mischief and then secondly to see how they start this journey of re-building this relationships,” she said.

Mulaeh said reconciliation is not going to be easy given Kenya’s long ethnic differences, but she said the youths understand the role they must play if their country is to heal.

“I think most of the youths across the country, they know something bad happened to the country. The enlightened ones know that they are the ones who contributed to this. By that I say like for instance, the young people are making it clear to say that it was a response, they were just angered, they were frustrated and they were just out there to express their feelings of what they believe in. So it has to bring them into an awareness of the role they played, and then secondly to see here this is the role we played. What can we do about it? Like for instance, the youths in the universities are well aware of happened and they are ready to work together. It’s not easy, but it’s a journey that we start together,” Mulaeh said.

Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan recently suggested that those responsible for the violence be prosecuted. But Mulaeh said even though Annan’s appeal is appropriate, it might be difficult to identify the perpetrators.

“I’m sure it would be the greatest thing that could happen to Kenya because there are people, especially in the Rift Valley, people who know that so and so was part of the people who destroyed my property. But the big issue is it calls upon political authorities. Political authorities as we know in Kenya represent communities. I’m not sure how sincere or how willing would people come in front and say we did this and we feel we should be responsible. It’s a very good appeal; it’s an appropriate appeal. But in my opinion, I’m not sure. I don’t think it will happen,” Mulaeh said.

Mulaeh said prosecuting the perpetrators of the post-election violence might be possible if there is an improvement in the Kenyan judiciary, which she said has always protected the mighty or those with money.