Peace starts in our own backyard
On July 15th this year, with my fellow marathon runner John Kelai and Wilson Kipsang we started a Walk for Peace in Kenya. Our itinerary took us on a 22 day, 863 kilometre (520 miles) journey through the toughest area in the northern region in order to reach out to communities and reduce ethnic violence. Although, the walk may have, unfortunately, gone unnoticed in the international media, it achieved its purpose of having an impact on the community we visited, who have less access to media representation. Our objective to spread a message of peace, raise funds and grow local awareness was reached.
It all started when I spoke to John Kelai, who told me about his idea to march in memory of his three uncles killed in cattle raids when he was a teenager. I have known him for many years since we grew up in the same region. When he explained his project, we spoke about doing it together. It is quite simple, we need peace, so we started to walk and raise awareness at home.
We began the walk in the northern Kenyan town of Lodwar in the unstable Turkana region, and headed south for some 40 kilometres daily through the vast rift valley to Lake Bogoria. Kenya is made up of 41 counties; during the Peace Walk we covered 7 counties which is already a huge step as we had to gain and agreement from these counties and we also received support from the government for this action but hope to get more in the future.
To illustrate the situation, last year over 310 people were killed and more than 220,000 fled their homes as a result of inter-communal conflicts attributed to competition over land and water resources, cattle rustling, and struggle over political representation, according to the United Nations.
There were 41 of us walking, it was very long but people were often greeting us with a smile and were happy we came to see them, these are very secluded regions, we didn’t have anything to give or way of helping them directly, just a message, just the action of taking the time to see them and talk to them.
When we crossed the finish line we were welcomed by dancing and singing from the communities around Lake Bogoria. It was so good to see all these communities together. We rose less than we targeted but enough to develop peace building programmes. We spent 2 days celebrating our accomplishment by visiting local schools and were accompanied by elders and this is very important because in Kenya we respect the elders.
I am satisfied but there is more work to do, together we sent a signal there is a need, I hope the signal has been received. Of course just one walk is not enough, we are going to go back this time by car to reach the other places and continue the work. It is important for us to educate the young generation and make sure they are better educated than our parents or ourselves. I try to make this link because if we do not go on the ground, you cannot talk about what is happening, you have to go and see it for yourself, talk to the people.
I believe this is the way because there is nobody bad in this world, if you hear and listen to their issue and understand what they need, then you might understand and see differently. So I encourage everybody to walk and discover others in their own back yards and start peace this way.