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IFA News Forces of Change at the Grassroots

Watch. Discuss. Act

Welcome to the third issue of the InformAction (IFA) newsletter, a community based organization in Kenya. IFA uses film and community discussions to inform communities to fight for their rights, and inspires them to mobilize and bring change at a local and national level.

IFA operates through mobile field teams – using a camera, projector and screen to help local communities to record important events and occurrences that affect their lives and to show films on these events and occurrences, for public information, discussion and action.

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This newsletter showcases stories of communities that have successfully mobilized themselves, and protested long and loud enough to compel their leaders to listen and respond.

The Ikorongo Community Take Action

Ikorongo is considered a ‘hot spot’ because of the recurrent border conflict between the Kipsigis, Maasai and Kisii communities. The conflict is a result of improper demarcation of land at the border and cattle rustling, which gets worse during every general election period. Residents also claim there is deliberate incitement by elected leaders from different political affiliations, which contributes to the problems.

Ikorongo village is situated in Kisii County, Nyaribari Masaba constituency. It touches the border of Nyamira, Bomet and Narok Counties.

IFA Kisii Team conducted community film screenings in 2016-17, including at Ikorongo Catholic Church, where the IFA film No Man’s Land was shown. The film touches on social, economical, and political injustices of the people in Northern Kenya. During the post-screening discussion, Ikorongo audience members expressed bitterness about their situation, and opened up about the border conflict.

IFA encouraged the Ikorongo residents to form a Community Action Team (CAT) to petition the National government for a long-term solution to the conflict. 16 members were identified by the community who would make up the CAT.

IFA helped organize meetings with the Ikorongo CAT and empowered them with knowledge about the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, to help identify tangible and long-term solutions to the border conflict.

The Ikorongo CAT came up with a petition to demand the following:

  • A joint police post to be established at the border with fully equipped security personnel.
  • Enhancement of the security patrols along the borderline.
  • Immediate compensation for the damaged crops.
  • All culprits to be identified and brought to justice.
  • A security floodlight to be installed.

During a peace rally held at the Ikorongo grounds in June 2016, the Ikorongo CAT made use of the opportunity and successfully presented their petition to the Kisii County Commissioner.

Result

In September 2018, the IFA Kisii Team revisited Ikorongo village to monitor the situation. Some of the demands that the Ikorongo CAT listed had been met. These included:

• In March 2017, police officers were deployed to a newly constructed police post at Ikorongo.

• Security floodlights had been installed along the border and in the market centers.

• The Kenya police and Administration police were deployed to provide security to the residents and to conduct patrols along the border during the night.

Ikorongo Police Post

This was a great success - showing that ordinary citizens have the right to articulate the issues affecting them, and the success they have when they come together and achieve their shared goals.

At present, peace prevails along the border.

Story by InformAction Kisii Team

Pave the Way for Mwache Dam

Fulugani Village is one of 26 villages in Kwale's Kasemeni Ward that will be affected by the Mwache Dam Construction, a 14.8 billion project that will supply both Kwale and Mombasa Counties with water.

Residents said at an IFA community screening they were very concerned about whether to agree to the upcoming Mwache Dam Project. They wanted to know the benefits and losses associated with the project, the amounts of compensation they should expect, and where they could expect to move to when they were displaced from their ancestral land. There was no clarity about the process and phases of the dam construction.

The IFA Mombasa Team had conducted a community film screening and discussion in Fulugani village, Kwale County, Kinango Constituency, and realized that it had been identified by the Kwale County government as one of the 25 other villages in Kasemeni Ward to be affected by the Mwache Dam Construction.

The ksh 14.8 billion Mwache Dam Construction of the dam will begin now in October 2018 and is set to be complete in four to five years. It will require 1,600 acres of land, resulting in the displacement of about 4,250 persons whose assets and livelihoods will be affected.

IFA revisited the location and conducted a follow up film screening and discussion in Fulugani Primary School on 19th May 2018. This was attended by the Fulugani village residents at large and they spoke of their concerns and fears over the project.

The other key concerns highlighted during the screening included:

  • The Chief had suddenly notified them in April 2018 that there would be meetings over the upcoming Mwache Dam project and that the project would commence at any time.
  • The on-going discussions of the Mwache Dam project appeared to have been approved by the Kwale County Governor without discussion with the affected communities and with no public participation.
  • The County leaders showed no interest in protecting the rights of the local people; residents were trying to apply for Title Deeds, without success.

The IFA Mombasa Team encouraged the audience to mobilize the community by forming a Community Action Team (CAT), which would also empower other villages in the area. They wanted to create an understanding of the issues and the struggle for justice.

IMPACT

The audience in the screening called for community meetings, which led to the Fulugani community nominating a local CAT. The CAT has encouraged and mobilised other affected villages, resulting in IFA holding further screenings and public participation.

Since then, the CAT has called for dialogue meetings between the community and local leaders at their village. However, invited county leaders failed to show up and instead sent representatives.

The CAT has since received threats from the area Chiefs and from some county leaders. The chairman of the committee has been summoned several times to the District Officer’s (DO) Office to explain the reasons behind the community meetings. Members of the CAT have been warned against holding any more meetings.

IFA continues to work closely with the community, and in October 2018 conducted further training of the CAT, to help organize them to protest and present a petition to the Governor of Kwale County.

Story by InformAction Mombasa Team

The Burat Community vs. The Kenya Army

On 6th December 2016, residents from seven villages in Burat Ward, Isiolo County protested against the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) for alleged encroachment of their land. Over 500 residents delivered a petition to the Isiolo County Commissioner.

In September 2018, the IFA Isiolo Team revisited the community to see if the protest and petition had resulted in change. The team found out that the National Land Commission of Kenya has since visited the disputed area.

Background to Land and Army Conflict

According to the community, over 10,000 families have lived in the area since the 1970s, having been ‘gifted’ the land by President Jomo Kenyatta. Some of the local residents originally came from Merti, Turkana, Samburu, Moyale and other parts of the Isiolo District.

Towards the end of 1981, officers from the Kenyan army approached the community elders and asked whether they would provide the army with a small piece of land facing Motonyi Hills where they could conduct army training. The elders made a verbal agreement with the Kenya army and provided them with 100 acres to use.

Over time, the School of Infantry (SOI) Army Base extended their boundaries, building permanent structures and grabbing more land from the locals.

Conflict started in 1997, when the army called on the Isiolo District Commissioner Mr Leron, to forcefully evict all the locals within a week. However, the residents refused to move, as they were confident that the land belonged to them.

Since then, the Kenyan army has attempted to chase local people away, using tractors to destroy farms and fencing. Locals say that every five years, after elections, the army attack, and threaten to evict them.

IFA Spurs the Community to Take Action

In 2016, while holding several community film screenings and discussions in Burat, the local people approached the IFA Isiolo Team for help on how to tackle this land issue.

IFA suggested the forming of a Community Action Team (CAT) to organize the writing of a petition and holding of a peaceful protest. IFA also screened ‘Kilio Cha Haki’ – a story of the first community protest in Nyamira, Kisii - to inspire the people and give them with ideas on how to hold peaceful protests.

The affected residents of Kambi Sheikh, Ngisoro, Elsantirim, Kabarnet, Bulesdima, Akadeli and Kakili villages came together and formed a CAT with five people from each village. They then formed an overall committee of six members.

After effectively organising themselves, over 500 residents protested and delivered their petition to the Isiolo County Commissioner, who received it on behalf of the President and Permanent Secretary for Defence.

The petition demanded:

  • The government to move with speed and resolve the conflict between the Kenya Army and the Burat community.
  • The government to survey, demarcate and issue Title Deeds to the Burat community with the help of the 5 elected committees from each village.

The National Land Commission of Kenya has since visited the disputed area and plans to survey the land to issue the affected residents with Title Deeds.

Story by InformAction Isiolo Team

InformAction Bridges Peace in Olemelil

There are three Kenyan communities bordering one another at Olemelil; the Kisii, the Maasai and the Kipsigis. They come from Kisii, Narok and Bomet Counties respectively.

Olemelil is a major trading centre for the three communities, and is prone to conflict caused by cattle thefts across the borders. Issues of land and political differences also contribute to the ethnic conflicts.

In mid 2016, the conflict escalated to a dangerous level, with several killings across the border. Trading was stopped and the movement of persons across the border was hindered. Education in schools at the border was also affected.

IFA Kericho Team started a peace initiative together with local organizations already on the ground, helping affected communities organize cross-border talks between themselves. The inter-community meetings culminated to a major peace rally at Raitiko Hill in July 2016, which was attended by the local Chiefs and residents from Kisii and Sotik/Bomet sides.

In September 2016, a second peace rally was held at Olemelil Market, attended by residents and leaders from the three counties. The affected residents spoke out and addressed the community leaders that were present, resulting in resolutions.

  • It was resolved here that chiefs were to take up responsibility in maintaining peace in their area of jurisdiction.
  • The affected communities from both sides were also asked to be co-operative in allowing each other to cross over and search for their stolen livestock.
  • In a case where the stolen livestock was not identified and recovered, a compensation method would be agreed upon.
  • The government promised to repair the roads in the conflict prone areas for the security forces to move and respond more quickly.

IFA recently revisited the area in September, to follow up with the community and review the situation. They found calm in the area and trade at the Olemelil centre thriving. The movement of people across the border was smooth.

Story by InformAction Kericho Team

The Wamumu Community Demand for their Rights in Central Kenya

In May and June 2018, the IFA Nyeri Team visited Kirinyaga County, with a focus on Mwea Constituency. After mobilizing the community, and holding IFA film screenings and discussions in several areas, it emerged that Wamumu ward was one of the most neglected communities in the area.

The community complained their leaders had abandoned them and that issues of bad roads and poor health facilities urgently needed to be addressed. After watching an IFA film The Absolute Power to Choose, they realized they had the power to demand for their rights.

The Petition

IFA Nyeri Team advised the community on how to tackle their issues. First, select a Community Action Team (CAT) to spearhead the mission, then, report back to the community on their findings.

After several meetings, and with the support of IFA, the CAT managed to draft a petition demanding for:

  • Proper roads and drainage
  • An operational health facility
  • Land ownership documents
  • Clean drinking water

The petition was presented to the community for validation and a date was set when they would deliver it to the County Assembly of Kirinyaga. More than 500 of the affected residents signed it.

On 5th June 2018, 12 Wamumu CAT members presented the petition to the County Assembly in Kerugoya Township, 15 kilometers away. The members hired a private van to take them at a cost of ksh 3500, which they payed for.

Road Blocks

On arrival at the County Assembly, the CAT members were met with hostility.

Two plain clothed security officers refused to identify themselves. The security team prevented IFA from filming, and insisted on receiving the petition themselves on behalf of the Clerk of the County Assembly. The security team then requested that armed police officers expel the IFA videographer.

The CAT members realized there was a plot to stop them, but they refused to back down. They persisted on delivering the petition, and were finally allowed to do so. After waiting for almost two hours, the petition was received and stamped by the Clerk of the County Assembly.

The next stop for the CAT team was the office of the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Planning, Kirinyaga County. Again, the CAT members met the same resistance, and the office proceeded to expel the IFA videographer from the premises - but the Cabinet Secretary reluctantly received and stamped the copy of the petition.

At both county offices, the same question was put to the CAT: why bring a petition, while the roads in question are being graded as we speak?

Immediate Reaction

The IFA team realized that on the very same day the Wamumu CAT set off to present their petition, the Wamumu Member of County Assembly (MCA) brought in a road grader to work on the roads in question.

The IFA team rushed back to Wamumu and found the grader in operation with some of the roads already graded.

The Wamumu CAT felt that the grading of the road was a result of community pressure, and a way to pre-empt the petition; but they went ahead and presented it nonetheless because they felt the local government would go quiet again without it.

The efforts of the CAT have helped ensure that the roads continue to be improved with murram and drainage culverts being put in place.

Story by InformAction Nyeri Team

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