Author Archives: Daniel J Orth Orth

News in Review: Nepal – November 19

Nepal News in Review

Nepali leadership continues its struggle to quell unrest amongst the Madhesi people. Last week, former PM Madhav voiced concerns that Madhesi leadership are for their own benefit misrepresenting the issues to the Madhesi people. Furthermore, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon responded to India’s alleged border blockade with Nepal, calling for the countries to “lift the obstructions without further delay.”

Border Problems

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed concerns late last week over the continued obstruction of essential supplies on the Nepal-India border. Significant shortages remain, even with the increase in supplies coming into Nepal, forcing the Nepali people to cross into India to get basic essentials.

UN speaks about blockade, underlines Nepal’s right to free transit.” Kathmandu Post. November 12, 2015.

Bordering Indian market full with Nepali customers.”  The Himalayan Times. November 12, 2015.

Flow of cargo-laden vehicles from India increases.” The Himalayan Times. November 16, 2015.

Madhesi Unrest Continues

Nepali leadership have been critiquing the unrest in the Madhesi region. Particularly, Former Prime Minister and senior CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal late last week accused Madhesi political party leadership of creating conflict by intentionally misinterpreting the new constitution. Again Sunday, the leadership met to try to reach an agreement and once again failed to reach consensus and end the unrest.

Political parties in Nepal fail to settle internal differences.” Review Nepal. November 15, 2015.

Protest goes against Madhesis: Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. November 17, 2015.

News in Review: Kenya – November 5, 2015

This past week in Kenya, security forces released a report raising concerns about al Shabaab’s new recruitment tactics. According to the report, poverty is leaving marginalized populations vulnerable to manipulation by the terrorist organization. Furthermore, security forces and government officials have been raising concerns about the potential consequences of corruption for Kenya. This concern was demonstrated most recently by the investigation of Youth Enterprise Development Fund officers on allegations of fraud. Finally, traffic stopped for hours on Lang’ata Road as matatu drivers blocked the road in protest over police harassment.

Al Shabaab & Street Families

Kenyan security forces released a report recently saying that al Shabaab is now targeting street families as they are easy to access and manipulate with offerings of money and food. Street boys, often marginalized and poorly looked after, are particularly at risk since their disappearances are rarely reported to police.

Mghenyi, Charles. “Shabaab Eyes Street Children in Mombasa.” The Star. November 2, 2015.

Mwakio, Philip. “Al Shabaab Now Targeting Street Families.” Standard Digital. October 31, 2015.

Corruption

Corruption has been the topic of conversation in Kenya the past two weeks with accusations that the government, particularly President Kenyatta, is at best a victim to the systemic problem and at worst supporting it.

Musau, Nzau. “Corruption, Tribalism Conspire to Hold Kenya to Ransom.” Standard Digital. November 1, 2015.

Oudia, Rusdie. “Government interfering with operations of anti-corruption agency, Raila says.” Standard Digital. October 31, 2015.

Youth Fund

The chief executive officer and finance director of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund have been sent on compulsory leave as they are investigated after an internal investigation showed an undisclosed amount of money had been transferred from the fund’s official bank account.

Kajilwa, Graham. “Youth fund bosses sent on 14-day leave.” Standard Digital. November 3, 2015.

Matatu Drivers & Police Harassment

On Tuesday, the matatu operators (the local bus system in Nairobi) blocked Lang’ata Road leaving many commuters stranded as they protested ‘police harassment.’ The event lasted an hour after several of the operators had been stopped by police and allegedly held illegitimately.

Kakah, Maureen. “Rongai matatu operators protest ‘police harassment’.” Daily Nation. November 3, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – October 29

Over the last two weeks Nepal has struggled to push forward in the midst of heightened unrest and violence. While the government has sought aid from China to meet a shortage of oil and petroleum imports, the Madhesi people continue to push for more equal constitutional representation. Meanwhile, Saturday was an important day for Nepal as the legislative party voted to hold elections for the presidency and vice presidency.

Oil from China

China is sending Nepal 1,000 metric tons of petrol as a subsidy to ease the fuel crisis. According to sources close to the Commerce Ministry, they have agreed to sign a deal to export petroleum products to Nepal in the future.

Nepal govt. decides to import petroleum products from China.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

China to provide Nepal oil to ease crisis.” Gulf Times. October 24, 2015.

Conflict with Madhesi

So far action to address the grievances of the Madhesi have not succeeded, as the government failed to reach a deal with the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha on Sunday and the United Democratic Madhesi Front voted to intensify their protest program.

Talks with Madhesi bear no fruit.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

UDMF protests turn violent in Terai.” Review Nepal. October 25, 2015.

Samiti, Rastriya Samachar. “UDMF cadres clash with police, half dozen hurt.” The Himalayan Times. October 24, 2015.

Border and Supply Problems Remain

Despite agreements with China to import many tons of petrol, scarcity persists as the Nepali regions bordering India remain “unofficially blocked” according to local residents. One consequence, among many, is an increase in the sale on the black market of petroleum products to try and quell the problem.

Government effortful to ease border problems: DPM Thapa.” Review Nepal. October 24, 2015.

EU calls on India to ensure essential supplies to Nepal.” Kathmandu Post. October 24, 2015.

Black marketing of petroleum products goes unchecked in Rupandehi.” The Himalayan Times. October 24, 2015.

President and VP Elections

On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, the Nepalese parliament held its first presidential election since the adoption of the new constitution and in a historic decision elected its first female president, Bidhya Devi Bhandari. President Bhandari is a longtime advocate for women’s rights and will join the Nepali leadership as it tries to overcome current unrest and usher in a new era with a new constitution.

Associated Press in Kathmandu. “Nepalese parliament elects first female president.” The Guardian. October 28, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

The Beauty Behind the Dust

By Jessica Ciccarelli

Sometimes, if you aren’t careful, you miss the beauty for the dust. I think it’s easy. You just get so preoccupied by what you see as wrong with a situation that you forget to ask what anyone else thinks and, perhaps more importantly, you forget to find the good. To me, this seems especially true in situations of poverty. The more impoverished a community is, the more unlike what is known, the more people from the outside, people like me, forget that it is still someone else’s normal, everyday life; and, that in the midst of their everyday problems, they find their own solutions to everyday issues. If only we’d zoom out and take a look at the bigger picture we’d see that there is a lot of good going on — even if it is on the periphery. This is the single most important lesson the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies contributed to my internship in Kenya this summer: We have to look at the big picture to create sustainable peace.

If you look at the two photos above, they both depict the Mathare slum community in Nairobi, Kenya. The first photo is a close-up of Mathare’s houses and the community. If you look closely, you’ll see the rusted, tin-metal of the houses and colorful clotheslines. The second photo shows a zoomed out view of Mathare. You can still see the rusted tin of the houses, but now you can also see people walking, youth working and a beautiful, community sack garden. So, it is not so much that the first photo is wrong, but that it doesn’t show all of Mathare. I was missing part, and I wouldn’t have realized how important the rest of that picture was without the lessons of the Kroc School. My professors would want me to put it this way:  In every situation there is a multitude of actors at many different levels contributing. Each one has its own role and motivations and to promote peace we absolutely must acknowledge and address all of them.

The youth in Mathare are incredible. They took my breath away each and every day they showed me their homes and community with nothing but passion and generosity. They contribute so much good to their communities — they really are changing things from the inside out. I wouldn’t have seen that quite so clearly if it weren’t for the values the Kroc School instilled in me. Values of openness, multi-level thinking, appreciation for the role of all people and all actors, and the truth that I am not now, nor should I ever be, “saving” anyone, merely playing a role and helping in a way that should eventually be no longer needed. I think you should love the people and the place you work in. But, you should love them in a way that says you understand that one day you and your love will be irrelevant, and that’s okay.

I may not have spent my summer mediating or designing peacebuilding projects, but I did carry these values of peace and justice with me all the way to Nairobi, Kenya. I carried them with me and gained so much more for it. I carried them with me and realized what it means to say we have an obligation to “do no harm.” I’ve now walked into impoverished communities in two different countries. This summer I carried the values of peace studies with me. Two years ago I did not. Reflecting back I think I was lucky the first time to have done no harm. I realize now, having spent a year intensively studying peace and justice, that if we aren’t careful it is easy to do harm and not even know it. Loving a place, a people, is a beautiful, incredible thing. It’s a gift, but merely loving them is not enough. Peace studies showed me how to use that love to contribute to sustainable peace. Thus, it is in that respect that I am indebted to the Kroc School, the staff, and the professors, for teaching me that peace is often an exceptionally bold venture championed best by the most humble of people. Thank you, Kroc School, staff and professors, for teaching me that the greatest question I can ask a community is how I can serve.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Kenya – October 22, 2015

Kenyan security forces have been busy this week with the Inspector General of Police calling for greater collaboration between the public and police, the rescue of an abducted schoolteacher by Kenyan soldiers, mass transfers of police officers due to alleged corruption and the removal of sixty-three senior police officers. Additionally, Muslim clerics, scholars and journalists continue to voice concerns over alleged misconduct by police towards Muslim citizens, especially Muslim youth. Finally, thousands of refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp have returned home in the last year.

Kenya’s Security – Rescue, Vetting, and Corruption

Police in the city of Eldoret faced criticism early last week for arbitrarily dumping 100 Eldoret youth in Busia town roughly 80 miles away. Meanwhile, the National Police Service Commission announced that sixty-three senior police officers were found unsuitable to serve and were therefore removed from office with a further twenty-nine waiting to undergo another round of vetting. In light of the particularly unstable relationship between police and the public, the Inspector General of the Police is seeking greater collaboration with the public to strengthen their partnership to fight crime. A few days after this announcement, 140 police officers were transferred due to allegations of corruption. In a show of strength, Kenya’s Military Forces successfully rescued a teacher who had been kidnapped by Al Shabaab.

Ochieng, Gilbert and Brian Ojamaa. “Police dump 100 Eldoret youth in Busia town.” The Star. October 13, 2015.

Kaikai, Anthony. “63 police bosses axed from force after vetting.” KBC. October 15, 2015.

KBC Reporter. “Boinett calls for police, public partnership to fight crime.” KBC. October 16, 2015.

Jacob, Elkana. “140 cops transferred from Mombasa Port over corruption, tribalism.” The Star. October 19, 2015.

Soldiers rescue abducted teacher from suspected ‘al Shabaab’.” Coastweek. October 20, 2015.

Kenyan Police, Terrorism, and Muslim Youth

Muslim clerics, scholars and journalists have expressed concern over Kenya’s security approach to Muslim citizens, especially Muslim youth. After numerous disappearances and allegations of torture, many Muslim leaders are calling for more non-violent approaches.

Mghenyi, Charles. “Use words not force in terror war.” The Star. October 13, 2015

Muslim suspects face rough justice in Kenya’s war on terror.” Daily Sabah. October 11, 2015

Kenyan Muslims Decry Injustice.” On Islam. October 11, 2015.

Somali Refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that as many as 5,000 Somali refugees have left Kenya’s Dadaab Refugee Camp and returned home. As many as 4,500 more are expected to return home from the camp in the coming months.

Mohamed, Adow. “5,000 refugees have gone back to Somalia.” The Star. October 19, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – October 15, 2015

Unrest continues in Nepal as protests remain in the Madhesi and Tharu regions, people struggle with fuel shortages and Nepali police forces experience clashes with Indian border security. Despite these moments of unrest, the country is trying to move forward with the election of a new prime minister from the Communist Party of Nepal-UML, who seems hopeful and confident that the government will address the remaining political issues. Meanwhile, Nepali Police and the government are trying to assuage the gas shortages with the implementation of a free bus service around the capital city and one-time sales of four gallons per vehicle until the shortage is over. Trade with neighboring Bangladesh has also been disrupted.

A New Prime Minister for Nepal

Communist Party of Nepal-UML leader KP Sharma Oli has been elected prime minister. India has welcomed the new PM, but promises to ‘wait and watch’ whether he addresses the concerns of Nepal’s minority groups in resolving their constitutional concerns.

Sharma, Bharda and Ellen Barry. “Nepal Elects K.P. Sharma Oli as New Prime Minister.” The New York Times. October 11, 2015.

India Welcomes Oli’s Election as New PM.” The Kathmandu Post.  October 11, 2015.

PTI. “India to ‘wait and watch’ as new Nepal PM takes charge.” The Economic Times. October 13, 2015.

India-Nepal Security Forces Clash

Indian border security and Nepali police forces have clashed recently. In the most recent incident, Indian border security officers are alleged to have dragged a Nepali police officer across the border and thrashed him.

Indian SSB men drags Nepal Police officer into Indian territory and beat up.” The Kathmandu Post. October 11, 2015.

Shortage Remains Despite Open Border

Fuel trucks are now entering Nepal daily, but still only amount to about 6,000 tons a week, 24,000 tons less than they are used to having. Government and police are trying to combat the fuel shortage with a free bus service in the capital and additional gas sales from China, but so far Nepal is still coming up short.

Fuel tankers, cargo trucks enter Nepal from India via Sunauli.” The Himalayan Times. October 12, 2015.

Nepal Police Begin Free Bus Service in Kathmandu.” The Kathmandu Post. October 12, 2015.

Gurubacharya, Binja. “Border between China and Nepal reopens after earthquake repairs; gov’t allows some gas sales.” Star Tribune. October 13, 2015.

Trade Troubles

Nepal’s trade with Bangladesh has been halted for the last two weeks since India is accused of enforcing an unofficial trade embargo. Bangladesh exporters say they are concerned about dispatching goods to Nepal for fear they will be obstructed by the Indian customs police.

Nepal Bangladesh Bilateral Trade Halted.” The Kathmandu Post. October 8, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Kenya – October 8, 2015

On September 25, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). While in New York, he garnered support from leaders of Caribbean nations to amend the controversial ICC Rule 68, which allows evidence from witnesses who have passed away, are presumed dead or are unable to testify orally. Kenyatta is seeking to amend the rule to ensure, as was promised when the rule was passed, that it would not be used retroactively. He believes the court ruling on August 19, in which the ICC trial judges decided to allow the prosecution to use recanted witness statements as evidence against Deputy President William Ruto and Joshua Sang, failed to fulfill that promise. Since that time, President Kenyatta has been pushing to amend the ruling and during the UNGA is said to have won support from the Caribbean nations to do so. A vote on the amendments is expected to take place at the ICC Assembly of State Parties in November this year.

In other news, Kenya continues to struggle with inadequate employment opportunities and benefits and heightened anti-terrorism tactics – with teachers striking for five weeks, leaving students across Kenya without schooling, and the Anti Terror Police Unit making arrests almost daily.

Controversy with the International Criminal Court (ICC)

Kenyan news is rife with controversy over both the ICC court case against Deputy President William Ruto and other Kenyan officials. The President is just one of several people who are being accused of fixing witness testimony against Ruto and other prominent officials. The question remains whether the accusations are true, and, if true, what use Kenyatta has for changing the ICC rules.

International Criminal Court. “Rules of Procedure and Evidence.” University of Minnesota Human Rights Library.  2000.

The Associated Press. “Kenya: International Court Seeks Two Suspected of Bribing Witnesses.” The New York Times.  September 10, 2015.

PSCU. “President Uhuru Kenyatta Leaves for UN General Assembly Summit in New York.” Standard Digital. September 24, 2015.

Kasami, Dickens. “Uhuru Wins International Support to Amend ICC Rule.” Tuko. September 29, 2015.

PSCU. “Uhuru Jets Back from UN General Assembly.” The Star. October 2, 2015

Leftie, Peter. “Raila Claims Uhuru Used Moses Kuria to Fix Ruto at the ICC.” The Daily Nation. October 6, 2015.

Teachers’ Strikes

After five weeks of educational paralysis, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), the country’s two largest teachers’ unions, suspended their strike. This happened just days after a Kenyan Supreme Court decision ordering teachers back to work and giving them 90 days to resolve their dispute.

Wanzala, Ouma and Elvis Ondieke. “Back to Class as Unions Call Off Teachers’ Strike Following Court Order.” The Daily Nation. October 3, 2015.

Kenya Pupils Return After Teachers Strike Suspended.” BBC. October 5, 2015.

Munguti, Richard. “Teachers to Know the Fate of their Salary Increases on Nov. 6.” The Daily Nation. October 6, 2015.

Anti-Terrorism Efforts

In an attempt to quell terrorism growth in Kenya, the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU) on Sunday sought court permission to detain twelve Muslim clerics, who were suspected of radicalizing youth in the Mandera area, for fourteen days. On Tuesday, the court granted the ATPU permission to hold the clerics for five days.

Otsialo, Manase. “Mandera Court Grants Orders for Police to detain 12 Muslim Clerics.” The Daily Nation. October 6, 2015

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

News in Review: Nepal – October 5, 2015

Last Sunday, September 20, Nepal formally adopted a constitution, a process which has been in progress for nearly a decade. The weeks preceding and following that formal adoption have been filled with unprecedented violence, particularly in the Terai which the Madhesi and Tharu indigenous groups have called home for decades. The violence started in early August when the four major Nepali political parties reached an agreement to divide the country into six provinces. This plan would connect the Madhesi region in the southern plains to the Tharu region in the far western plains, a move which the minority groups say will hinder their political bargaining power and, moreover, empower local political elites to overtake their politics and erode their rights. India quickly responded, condemning the violence and closing their border with the country, restricting Nepal’s access to food and fuel imports, while the rest of the international community has voiced continued concern over the violence.

A New Constitution

Passage of Nepal’s new constitution has alienated many of the minority groups living in the Terai including the most prominent Tharu and Madhesi people who feel marginalized and fearful of the potential consequences of this constitutional agreement.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Plan to Redraw Internal Districts in Nepal Prompts Violent Protect.” New York Times. August 10, 2015.

Haviland, Charles. “Why is Nepal’s new constitution controversial?BBC. September 19, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Amid Protests, Nepal Adopts Constitution.” New York Times. September 20, 2015.

Pokharel, Sugam  and Salim Essaid. “More than half a century in the making: Nepal enshrines new constitution.” CNN. September 21, 2015.

UN Calls for End to Violence

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the level of violence taking place in Nepal and urged stakeholders to participate in open dialogue.

UN rights office calls for end of violence and dialogue in Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 23, 2015.

India Seeking Constitutional Changes

India recommended seven constitutional changes to Nepal’s political leadership including “delineation of electoral constituencies based on population alone, the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion, to allow naturalised citizens to hold highest offices both at the federal and provincial level.”

India sought changes in Nepal statute: Media.” The Kathmandu Post. September 24, 2015.

India’s “Unofficial” Blockade

Earlier this week, in response to the growing violence in Nepal, India blocked all traffic flowing across its Nepali border with officials emphasizing security concerns. While protesters are claiming responsibility for blocking some of the trade posts, India and Nepal are still debating who is at fault. India claims the problem is with instability and insecurity in Nepal and Nepal claims India is punishing the landlocked nation for passing the constitution last Sunday.

SLMM decides to block all entry points to Nepal from India.” The Kathmandu Post. September 23, 2015.

Nepali minority group blocks India-Nepal trade route.” The Himalayan Times. September 25, 2015.

Anti-India Protests

In the border town Kakadbhitta of the Jhapa district, locals protested against the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India.

Border locals protest against India’s ‘undeclared blockade’.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Nepali Government Restricts Transportation

The Nepali government has begun rationing fuel and has restricted the movement of cars to alternate days based on license plate numbers. Even with strict limits on the sale of fuel to personal cars, buses, and taxis, the Nepal Oil Corporation says the country will run out of fuel in ten days.

The Associated Press. “Nepal Restricts Driving to Head Off Fuel Shortage.” The New York Times. September 27, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Nepal Rations Fuel as Political Crisis with India Worsens.The New York Times. September 28, 2015.

Government Talks with Madhesi Leaders

Leadership in the governing parties, including Nepali Congress leader and Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, UML Chief Whip Agni Kharel and UCPN (Maoist) senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, met with Madhesi leaders including Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) Chairman Mahantha Thakur and the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. Both leaders presented a set of pre-conditions for ending the protests, some of which the government has agreed to and is currently working on implementing.

Three-party talks team meets Thakur, Gachadar.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Govt initiates talks with agitating Madhesi parties.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

India’s “Communal War”

While distributing prizes to the second-level futsal championship, Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party Chair Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that India was starting a communal and ethnic war and trying to disharmonize Nepali society.

India has begun communal war with Nepal: leader Bijukchhe.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Border Point Reopens

The Nepali border point at Bhairahawa reopened on Monday, September 28 letting in as many as 40 vehicles including one petrol tanker. Two days later India resumed sending food and fuel into Nepal, but many more hundreds of trucks holding food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were still sitting on the India side of the border.

Border entry point at Bhairahawa reopens, 40 vehicles enter Nepal from India.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Associated Press. “India resumes sending food, fuel to shortage-stricken Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 30, 2015.

Former PM and UCPN-Maoist Baburam Bhattarai Chased Out of Janakpur

Former Maoist prime minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, resigned from his party and parliament in an expression of disappointment over the new constitution. Following this resignation, Bhattarai went to Janakpur to address a mass assembly of largely Madhesi parties about the failures of the new constitution; however the stage was set on fire, and party leaders Ram Chandra Jha and UCPN-Maoist leader Ram Kumar Sharma were manhandled and beaten up and Bhattarai was escorted out and chased to Janakpur Airport.

Nepal’s former PM Bhattarai quits parliament, party.” The Daily Sun. September 27, 2015.

Bhaskar, C Uday. “Nepal: Will former PM’s resignation be catalyst for rethink? The South Asia Monitor. September 28, 2015.

Yadav, Brij Kumar. “Baburam Bhattarai’s stage set on fire, Ram Chandra Jha beaten up in Janakpur.The Himalayan Times. September 29, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

The Westgate Attack: Two Years After

October 1, 2015

On Tuesday, September 21, 2015, mall and Nakumatt staff gathered at the new Westgate Mall in Westlands, Nairobi to honor those lives lost in the attack two years ago. The same day, a few minutes down the road in Karura Forest, where a memorial plaque is placed to remember those killed in the attack, a small group of people, mostly the families and friends of those lost, gathered to honor them with interfaith prayers.

That day, two years earlier, al-Shabaab gunmen entered the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killed 67 people, wounded 175, and left the country with a resounding sense of loss and the collective trauma from the event. This loss and traumatization would only worsen as the nation spent the next several days watching footage of the 80 hour standoff as though they were seeing friends, family and fellow residents gunned down live, before their very eyes. One university student at Moi University wrote, “Millions of people watched the media circulate images of the traumatic events that transpired and gripped the nation together in real-time. The Westgate mall terror attack can only be compared to America’s 911 attack…” For many Kenyans, this event changed their lives forever.

Though the personal loss was great, Westgate marked two important changes for the country as a whole:  1) It changed the way the Kenyan government and its officials approach questions of security; and 2) It changed the government’s approach to terrorism.

Towards a Greater Security

Following the attack, two important things changed about security in Kenya. First, it got bigger, both physically and monetarily – with thousands more police and security officers and significantly more money spent on personnel and training.  Second, the government started designating many more resources for anti-terrorist campaigns. Today the vast majority of malls and businesses in Nairobi require visitors to pass through several levels of security before entering. One security firm executive said, “In a way it has [boosted business] because our clients have been concerned.”

The every day lives of Kenyans have been permanently impacted. From a walk to the grocery store to a ride to work each day, security, be it administrative or general police, pervades Kenyan Society. This is largely due to a shift in the governmental approach to security. In the first year after the Westgate attack, the government increased security spending by 24 percent and employed as many as 10,000 more police officers.

Understanding Terrorism

Since the attack, Kenya’s security apparatus has refocused their approach to anti-terrorism training. One former military intelligence officer explained that the government has increased emphasis on anti-terrorism tools through improving skills such as, “surveillance, detection, profiling, and what security officers are looking for in the field.”

The increased emphasis on detection and profiling has changed the way police and other security officials interact with the public. One news source wrote, “Proper verification of national identification cards and other supportive documents along the Kenyan borders with Somalia and Ethiopia have been intensified and mandatory to all nationals.” While tightening border security can be positive, civil society groups and human rights organizations have criticized the long-term negative effects of a heightened anti-terrorism agenda and the use of tools like ethnic profiling as a solution to such problems. The Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, for example, published a document this month called “The Error of Fighting Terror With Terror”, in which they criticized the post-Westgate security agenda for allowing massive ethnically biased human rights violations. The commission writes that it “is concerned that the ongoing crackdown continues to disproportionately target certain groups of people particularly ethnic Somalis and members of the Muslim faith in the coastal region.”

Moving Forward

The Kenyan government has taken precautions to ensure an atrocity like Westgate does not happen again.  The new Westgate structure has as many as 56 security guards and was rebuilt with no balcony seating to ensure terrorists cannot scale the new building. Beyond these superficial changes, many Kenyans question the ability of the state to keep its citizens safe. Speaking of the Westgate attack and the government’s response, one individual wrote, “Lost an irreplaceable friend and colleague…Kenyan govt has done nothing serious to improve security.” For many Kenyans, while the government has committed numerous human rights violations, not nearly enough has been done to genuinely improve the security situation in the country.

Rajon News September 21, 2015 The Star Kenya September 21, 2015 Voice of America September 21, 2015 The Guardian October 4, 2013 al Jazeera September 24, 2014 al Jazeera September 26, 2013 CNN March 21, 2014 CNN July 19, 2015 BBC September 19, 2014 Daily Mail July 18, 2015 New Vision September 21, 2015 The Standard September 21, 2015 Voice of America September 21, 2014 Tamuka News 2014 KNHCR September 2015 Human Rights Watch September 26, 2013 Open Society Foundation October 31, 2013 Academia 2015

Lessons I’ve Learned – Stories from Kenya

By Jessica Ciccarelli

Nairobi’s streets are wild—an organized, yet chaotic masterpiece unique to this “City in the Sun.” That’s what I realized the day I stepped foot in Nairobi. The smells, sounds and sights all have their own distinct Nairobi twist. There’s nothing quite like navigating this assault to the senses. Imagine, if you can, the smell of barbecued beef (Nyama Choma), garbage, sweat, and nature at the exact moment you are hearing and seeing cars, buses (matatus),  motorbikes (bodabodas), camels, goats, push carts and any combination of security officers from Nairobi’s dozen different security agencies holding what look, at least to me, a lot like AK47s. Simply, strangely, I miss this Nairobi chaos.

Kariobangi youth leading goats to pasture

Kariobangi youth leading goats to pasture

Who am I? I am a graduate student at the Kroc School of Peace Studies that was given the opportunity to traverse these wild streets, to befriend the line where Nairobi’s rich greenness becomes as sparse as the income, and to call it a program requirement for my school. I interned this summer with organizations that live and work in communities which many people—local and international alike—fear entering, and it was in those communities that I fell in love with that beautiful city and its residents. There I became irreversibly interested in the work of the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ). This internship with the IPJ gave me a unique and new love that showed me the beauty that can be found in struggle if you open your mind and heart to it.

I had the honor this summer of working with three incredible organizations: Chemchemi Ya Ukweli (Kiswahili for Wellspring of Truth), Catholic Relief Services and Caritas. With Chemchemi Ya Ukweli, I interviewed actors at every level of Nairobi society to better understand the relationship between youth and police. This led me to communities all over Nairobi – from the lavish, upmarket areas to the more impoverished, informal communities. Riding this line between upmarket and informal gave me a depth of understanding around identity I could have gotten nowhere else. While working with Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, whose work is largely based in the informal and impoverished communities, I wandered around the settlements in Kariobangi and Mathare. There, I met countless youth who permanently changed the way that I think about what are considered informal communities and informal employment.

Matatu ni matata - "The terrible matatus!"

Matatu ni matata – “The terrible matatus!”

I learned a great deal from this internship with the IPJ field program in Kenya and there are many things I will carry with me as I transition this fall from my role as a student of peace to someone who helps build it. Knowledge like the value of local voices that goes beyond meeting basic demands for local buy-in and insists on real, local, grassroots initiation.

Following this introductory post about my work in Kenya, I will be writing a series of pieces dedicated to my experience with the IPJ in Nairobi. In these, I will have the opportunity to share some of the big lessons I’ve learned. The posts will explore four different themes: 1) How the teachings and values of the Kroc School of Peace Studies aided and influenced my practice this summer; 2) How external actors engage with local communities—how to avoid “slum tourism” or “the savior complex”; 3) Youth and police identity in Nairobi; and finally 4) Tribal identity in Kenya. In these posts, I will not only share some of the lessons I learned this summer, but I will also try to show how the methods and values of the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice are exceptional and have shaped both my field experience and the lives of the individuals I met.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.