Although generally considered to be a stable and fast developing country, Kenya remains prone to recurring conflicts and inter-communal tensions, both along ethnic and religious lines.
Building democratic and responsive state and governance institutions in Kenya after the end of one-party rule in 1991 has been a difficult and, at times, violent, process. Almost every election period since then has been marred by political and ethnic violence, as in 2007-08 when the results of the presidential election triggered widespread violence causing more than 1,000 deaths and the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. In the wake of the post-election violence, the international community supported a reconciliation and power-sharing agreement, leading to the promulgation of a new constitution in 2010, which provides for a secular and devolved system of governance with elected county governments. Despite high national and international expectations, this phase of political transition from a highly centralised state to a decentralised system has put further strain on political, ethnic and religious relations in counties, as the respective roles and responsibilities of local and national governments remain contentious issues.
At the same time, the constitution also decrees the establishment of national institutions to promote cohesion and integration between communities in conflict. The recent constitutional process has thus fostered the creation of space and institutions for reconciliation and peacebuilding among communities affected by the electoral and ethnic violence. Both civil society and governmental bodies have been working to address the lingering grievances and promote harmony in a society marked by ethnic and religious diversity. The emergence of a violent streak of religious extremism, represented by al-Shabab and its sympathisers, has in particular brought into focus the question of peaceful interreligious coexistence both within Muslim communities and between Muslim and Christian communities.
LPI’s Kenya peacebuilding programme has been designed to address these issues in partnership with local faith-based Christian and Muslim organisations as well as youth groups in Kamukunji, one of Nairobi’s 17 districts or sub-counties, and Garissa, in the Somali-dominated north-eastern Kenya bordering Somalia.