Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Powerful Testimonies from New Peace Outreach

by Tim Wright reporting from the field, Marsabit County, Kenya

In April 2014, Sauti Moja initiated a new Peace CLB, Karantina, modelled after the successful one in Badasa-Songo, where widows of conflict have united as peace-makers in their communities. This new livestock bank is also made up of 10 Borana and Gabra widows and 10 Rendille widows. Sauti Moja leads peace training and activities that contribute to solidarity among these ‘enemies’, and they learn together in family health training. 

Paul, SM Peace Coordinator, discusses forgiveness
 with widows of conflict.
In their new friendships, these women often initiate reconciliation activities independent of Sauti Moja.  October 18th, I was called to the village of Hulahula to witness a peace activity initiated by Borana and Gabra widows. More than 10 widows had traveled from Manyatta Ginda to offer support to Kukermaya, a Rendille widow whose son is seriously ill and who did not have adequate food to feed him well. The women sacrificed Ksh1300 (~$15) to help Kukermaya buy food and secure medical help. In turn, this unexpected gesture of goodwill led the Rendille women of the Peace CLB to prepare food for the women who had walked many kilometers to bring encouragement.  These acts of unity are a powerful witness to changed hearts and relationship.

This setting provided a wonderful opportunity for me to ask women about what has changed for them, over the past six months.  I was shocked by the scope of change.  Responses follow.

  • “The road to town is no longer a place of fear. We do not have enemies along the road; we are sisters. The roads that were closed by fear are now open!”  Salo Fora, Gabra
  • “Before, we feared each other, but now we are comfortable together.  We meet for weddings and births and give gifts. When there is sickness and death, we visit and comfort one another.  This never happened when we were enemies.”  Adi Wako, Borana
  • “Before, it was painful to meet a Borana or Gabra and have to greet them.  Now, I feel good, and one can even give food.  If we come too late from town, we can sleep in the home of a Borana or Gabra woman.  If they are too tired to return home, tonight, they can sleep in our homes.” Gumatho, Rendille

Widows of conflict now share food as women
for peace.
  • “When we have CLB meetings, we don’t just talk about peace, but we encourage those who still have ‘heavy hearts’ to join us.  We brought these women and even some who are not members of the CLB with us, today, to join us in this trip, so that they will have changed heart toward the Rendille.  These joint, group activities build our morale and keep us together.”  Dohatu Tache, Borana.
  •  “There is a change in relationship related to livestock.  Before you might have stolen livestock in your herd, and there was some bad feeling; the one who had them stolen, also had bad feeling.  Now, with livestock being given between enemies, everyone experiences joy and love. The receiver has a changed heart and wants to be like the giver.”  Salo Fora, Gabra
  • “We no longer have to go to open, high places to herd and guard our livestock.  Now, people can graze everywhere and even rest in the shade. This is true for the whole community.”  Salo Fora, Gabra
  • “We have greater security from outsiders who come to make trouble.  We can send a messenger or call on the phone to let the other tribe know, if someone bad is planning something.  They can warn their security people before anything happens.”  Salo Fora, Gabra

Widows from different tribes now enjoy close friendship.

In response to my questions about attitudes and reactions by elders and other men in the community, there was general agreement of support.  A Manyatta Ginda woman said, “Most of the time when we are coming for peace outreach, the elders and other women say that it is good work.  The elders really encourage us.”  A Hulahula woman agreed, “The elders are also supportive and encourage us.”  Another woman said, “The question in the air is how, after all the peace meetings and seminars by churches, government and other agencies, are these ladies doing it?”
 “God is giving us strength. We will not turn back.”   Gumatho, Rendille.

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