This article was written by David Kimani Mungai, a Youth Alive peace ambassador and the founder of Street Talent Africa(STA).
This is a community-based organization based in Kawangware that uses arts as a way of advocating for accountability, integration, eradication of Gender-Based Violence, leadership and peace. STA runs a community theatre project called Undugu (Unity) Community Theater Peace Awareness to create awareness of peace, integration, tolerance, mental health and positive ethnicity.
In my quest to contribute to enhanced peace in Kenya, I have engaged in peace walks, dialogue sessions, conflict management efforts, community mobilization and organizing one-on-one peace promotions. I have encountered and worked with people from all walks of life and this has given me an experience in matters of peace.
From where I stand as a peace champion, there is no doubt that the political, social and economic stability of any given nation depends upon the presence of peace in its communities.
I witnessed the economy shut down in the aftermath of the 2007 general elections. No exports or imports were happening. This made the common mwananchi (citizen) have a very rough time to a point where affording a meal a day was challenging. Many foreign investors left the country, the flow of cash was decreasing and the GDP was deteriorating. To this date, the impact is still felt because the economic recovery is still in the process.
Schools were a no go zone and the level of illiteracy skyrocketed. Normal conversations became toxic, businesses were burnt down if it were noted the owner was not from the same community and tribe as the locals. Issues of gender-based violence were rampant.
On the psychological front, the mental health of mostly women and children was immensely affected. This was occasioned by atrocities that were experienced. Fathers were slaughtered before their families, women raped before their children, and people lost their hard-earned investments on a day’s burndown. Stigma and discrimination was experienced in most working places. Colleagues lost their rightful positions because of their tribe, beliefs, and political stand.
The country came to a political impasse and the international community had to intervene so that the government and the opposition could come to a mutual understanding. Normality only resumed after the two opposing sides reached an agreement of peace for the political, social and economic stability of the country.
15 years later, we are now fresh from the general elections of 2022. The elections were markedly peaceful. This is due to the concerted efforts of many quarters including civil society and the citizens themselves.
Before elections, as Street Talent Africa, we engaged with Youth Alive Kenya in a project called Balozi Mtaani (ambassador in the community) which was aiming at identifying and lobbying for peace ambassadors at the community levels. In these projects, we were able to engage the youths, women, politicians, and local administration through open-air community theatre forums and debates.
As we mark the International day of peace which is celebrated on the 21st of September, observed globally and devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire and with the theme of “End racism. Build peace.” I can proudly say that I have been doing my duty to make sure that peace prevails. I continue to use art advocacy through music, theatre, dance, and poetry to promote peace within my community regardless of our tribe, color and race.
I believe that it’s the little things we do that bring about a big change in this world. It’s also our duty to make this world a better place than we found it as we promote SDG No. 16 which aims to attain Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.