Author: Khadija Abdallah Mohamed
Coordinator, Young Cities
Author: Anisa Harrasy
Manager, Young Cities
Author: Jasmeet Sahotay
Manager, Young Cities
Author: Sameen Zehra
Associate, Young Cities
Young Cities held a week-long County Exchange in Nakuru, Kenya, between 14-18 March 2022. The Exchange brought together young activists, county officials and civil society representatives from Mombasa, Kwale and Nakuru counties and national government officials to foster stronger cross-county cohesion and the sharing of good practices in the face of common challenges. Nakuru was an epicentre of post-election violence in both 1992 and 2007 and, given the upcoming national general election in August 2022, the event marked a crucial opportunity to identify ways to prevent election-related violence later this year.
The cornerstone of the Exchange, a ‘Preventing Electoral Violence’ Showcase gave the teams the opportunity to demonstrate the impact of a series of Young Cities-supported initiatives to 18 representatives from county and national government, as well as 21 representatives from across Kenyan civil society including national and international NGOs. The initiatives, which were led by young peacebuilders from Nakuru. Focused on engaging the community in creative ways in order to counter divisive narratives in the run-up to the August elections, the programs combined street theatre, music, film, and dance performances and workshops.
Young Cities’ Showcase events elevate young people as critical actors in addressing key community challenges, connecting them to municipal government and creating opportunities for collaboration.
During the Showcase, officials from Nakuru County government emphasised the need for stronger support for young people to engage in the civic space, as well as expanded efforts to promote peace ahead of the election. Youth teams presented their initiatives to attendees in a series of project pitches and performances. They and government officials subsequently discussed the need for similar initiatives and the potential for sustaining them, which they will be jointly working toward in the coming months.
"Throughout the week, delegates shared cross-county good practices, such as utilising young people as credible messengers in local community action to prevent and counter electoral violence, and collaborating effectively with young people as peacebuilding partners."
Throughout the week, delegates shared cross-county good practices, such as utilising young people as credible messengers in local community action to prevent and counter electoral violence, and collaborating effectively with young people as peacebuilding partners.
The event also set the tone for a series of meetings and roundtables that took place over the following two days of the Exchange. Nakuru County Government’s Office of Youth, Gender, Culture, Sports and Social Services, for example, hosted a lunch bringing together representatives from different departments to examine inter-agency ways to prevent electoral violence. An open forum with local CSOs and the Kenyan Election Commission provided young people and representatives from Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Border Commission (IEBC) the opportunity to air grievances the youth had with IEBC processes and identify opportunities for improvement. And during a roundtable discussion involving the Nakuru Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Forum Secretariat and representatives from equivalent agencies in Mombasa and Kwale counties, participants highlighted how they are proactively involving young people in launching initiatives to counter the threat of electoral violence.
The Exchange delegates also attended site visits to two local youth-led organisations, Daraja360 and UjuziHub, to offer them different perspectives on how different CSOs are contributing to societal security and community safety by reducing youth vulnerability to crime and violence. The event concluded with a joint tour of Lake Nakuru National Park, facilitated by the Kenyan National Government.
To build on the event’s momentum in strengthening youth-county ties and encouraging youth civic participation, Young Cities is currently providing transportation for 30 young activists to take part in a series of local Public Participation Forums that are taking place between 21 March and 9 April. Public Participation Forums are County-led initiatives to engage in dialogue with communities, and for citizens to feed into decision-making processes.
The County Exchange and Showcase demonstrate the value of whole-of-community approaches to peacebuilding efforts. While young peacebuilders have been essential to driving local change in Kenya, county and national government support and guidance were vital in amplifying their efforts, and in creating meaningful space for youth involvement in local policies and solutions. The event would not have been possible without the support of Youth Bila Noma, Young Cities’ trusted partner in Nakuru, nor without Nakuru County government, both of whom have been instrumental in supporting the programme’s implementation in the County.