A youth violence prevention week came to a close at the weekend with participants pledging to spread the peace message across Kenya after two months of tension and ethnic violence following elections in December 2007.
And in a happy coincidence, the efforts by the international community to end the post election skirmishes that has claimed some 1,000 lives and almost 300,000 others being displaced also bore fruit with a landmark political deal signed by President Mwai Kibaki and opposition chief Raila Odinga.
UN-HABITAT was one of the major promoters of the National Youth Violence Prevention Week, an activity of the "Safer Cities Kenya Project" that is a joint collaboration of the Government of Kenya with the United Nations under United Nations Development Assistance Framework for Kenya initiated in 2001.
Most of the speakers at the closing ceremony of the violence prevention week showed appreciation for the support UN-HABITAT had given to them and said that they had already started influencing their peers on the need to prevent violence.
In a keynote address, UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka said it was now time that the participants embarked on a national campaign to mobilize communities countrywide – especially young people to volunteer their services in reconstructing the business premises and homes destroyed during the post-election violence.
“This reconstruction effort can also provide a useful base for national reconciliation with the participation of communities both affected and involved in the destruction. UN-HABITAT’s Shelter Recovery Needs Assessment Report could provide a useful source of reference for this campaign,” she said.
Kenya plunged into unprecedented violence after the December 2007 elections after the opposition accused the government of electoral theft. To bring to an end the anarchy, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan was mandated by the international community to mediate a peace agreement, an initiative that was also supported by UN-HABITAT. His efforts were rewarded last Thursday when both President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga signed a peace deal that will see them share power in an expanded government.