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Varsities vouch for peace ahead of general elections (Kenya)
an article by Xinhua News Service

The Kenyan university fraternity has joined the rest of citizens in promoting initiatives to promote peace during the polls set for March 4, so as to avoid a recurrence of the 2008 post-election violence that almost brought the country to the brink of a civil war. The University of Nairobi, through its Department of Sociology and Social Work, on Monday rallied vice-chancellors from 41 universities in the country for a roundtable dialogue dubbed “the role of the Universities in creating a culture of peace.”

George Magoha, University of Nairobi Vice-Chancellor

click on photo to enlarge

Under the slogan “Wajibu Wetu” (Our Responsibility), the roundtable, which also drew participants from the private sector, government, academia and student leadership from the public and private universities in Kenya, discussed ways of engaging Kenyans and University students to understand, appreciate and practice the concept in the context of peaceful coexistence.

“Universities are mandated with the task of nation building and preparing students to become seasoned agents of change,” University of Nairobi Vice- Chancellor George Magoha told the participants in Nairobi on Tuesday. “The clarion is a wakeup call to the universities and development partners to join hands and bring to the center stage the reality that universities nurture so that they can cultivate a culture of peace.” The vice- chancellor told the dons that in the past, the academia in Kenya has been seen as passive bystanders during elections and reminded them not to relent in putting efforts together.

“It is one thing to have ideas and another for the ideas to have impact.” His counterpart from Chancellor of Maseno University Dominic Makawiti observed that the youth were evolving rapidly and were exposed to massive information and therefore the universities should engage them especially in managing peaceful elections. . .

During the occasion, the University of Nairobi released a documentary movie titled “Brother Time”, a mythic story of the relationship of two neighbors, whose friendship turns to conflict as ethnic passions threaten to engulf them. In the film, Wainaina’s harmonious relationship with his neighbor Mutai suddenly changes into outright hostility because they belong to different tribes.

The film’s producer Paul Mbatia, who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the university, said peace, has to be worked at by all Kenyans because they live In a country characterized by fragile democracy. “Peace cannot be assured at all times. We cannot be able to build a culture of peace if our youth have not embraced peace.” The rationale for “Wajibu Wetu” project is to bring together Kenyan universities, both public and private, to train university students to prepare short messages and transmit to the counties.

The short term activities are guided by the need to prepare students to work with communities before the general elections. Towards this end, selected students from each county will be trained in creation and maintaining of peace before and during elections. The messages will also be used for radio transmission in all local languages.


Question(s) related to this article:

How should elections be organiized in a true democracy?,

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Latest reader comment:

CPNN receives more and more articles from Africa about initiatives that contest the European model of "winner-takes-all" elections, and demand that elections should only be part of a broader democratic process that seeks consensus and compromise.

This fits with the pre-colonial systems of justice in Africa, when there was no monotheism and no single supreme god, no single supreme law, no single "truth" provided by divine intervention, but rather a compromise among many different "gods," perspectives and "truths" arrived at through a process of mediation, for example, the "palabra."

This report was posted on February 5, 2013.