The Great Rift Valley…. The word itself sounds very exotic, like a far away land in a world where mystical enchantments exist. Oh perhaps, it sounds similar to one of the journey in Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, my quest to the Great Rift Valley is nonetheless a spiritual discovery of a people that I usually would hear from the television and magazines.

The Global Peace Festival (GPF) team journeyed deep into the Great Rift Valley to learn an interesting initiative by the GPF Kenya. The initiative was a partnership with several key groups in eradicating tribal conflict that had hit Molo, a peaceful country side, home to tribes which included the Kikuyu, Maasai, Gussi, Luhya, etc. The worst bloody conflict was during the 2007 Election violence which saw young people from different tribes killing each other in the name of hatred and fear.

Along the road, we saw wide open space of the Great Rift Valley that went on and on without end, absolutely mystical and beautiful. There were huge serene lakes and picturesque long-dead volcano crater from afar. Once a while, there were baboons, zebras and donkeys passing by on each sides of the road. I also saw African children looking curiously at us (as we are the only foreigners), small shops quietly doing their daily business, and endless rows of golden corns/millets, giving a pleasant rustic view of rural Africa.

The initiative by GPF Kenya focuses on Character Education. It is not the typical Character Education that one would normally associate with. It doesn’t have a curriculum nor a syllabus. It does not contain any rigid evaluation. What’s interesting about the Character Education is the sustainability of  long term cooperation between all community. The core idea is to change the mindset of young people by getting all community to participate.

To better understand the whole concept of the Peace Process in Molo, we went to the Rift Valley Provincial Headquarters in Nakuru. The military police had set up a team of Peace Cops, their role is more of a peace maker rather than carrying guns catching criminals. The unique aspect about Peace Cops is they are supposed to mingle and gain the trust of the community. This will enable them to get first hand tip off on potential tribal conflict. Besides, they also do frequent patrol in hard-to-reach rural areas, joining forces with tribal leaders. The Peace Cops initiative has been very successful as the police forces presented themselves as a trust worthy ally in the peace process.

Back to the Character Education, as we drove to the school which had suffered badly during the 2007 Election Violence, we learned ever since the school implemented the Character Education and having committed alliances between police forces, government, GPF and the community, there hasn’t been any conflict happened. The success of the Character Education is due to – cooperation between the Police, the government, community, GPF, school and young people. The Peace Cops represent the committed efforts by the police; the government has been fully supportive of the initiative and provided funds to the community; the community has been very involved by having frequent meeting with all tribes; the school authorities play a vital role in creating a safe education environment; young people from all tribes has been organizing workshops and youth activities ; while GPF has been behind the scene in assisting the schools and young people by providing resources, training and guidance.

The never ending rows and rows of greenery hills were the homes of the people of Molo. The weather was cooling and welcoming, with rich agricultural cultivations of potatoes, corns, millets, and vegetations. Once a while donkeys carrying goods and humans would pass by our vehicle. On the other side of the view, I saw cows freely roamed the grasses chewing their meal, houses made of mud and dry plants stood rustically, while housewives busy doing their back-breaking chores. The humble setting of the rural scene made me realized the people of Molo are very lucky to have the vast nature as their home. One of the my friend who tagged along told he was sorry with the poverty there, but I do not feel the people there were ‘poor’. In a materialistic sense, they may not own shining cars, big mansions, high-paying jobs, and designer clothes, but they have everything they need – fresh air, beautiful nature, rich agricultural land, mud houses as shelter (it doesn’t cost a thing!) and a close-knitted community. One thing lacked were the access to clean water and good education.

Arriving the school – Mutate Primary School, we were greeted by young school kids, wearing their humble clothing and wide beautiful smiles. The kids were extremely adorable, to the extend I would perhaps do an Angelina Jolie and adopt one of them as my child! I was shocked to see the humble school, considering this is the best in Molo. It is everything I had saw in the TV. It broke my heart to see how worn-out their school books were, and the school principal told us they do not have the funds to build more classrooms, thus the kids have to cram together in that small classroom. Yet, they seemed to be extremely excited, singing and smiling joyfully, I did not see a hint of sadness in their faces. I can understand why, the nature is their classroom, and with this much freedom, they thrived. Mind you, I was shocked again when I saw the school work of these kids, considering they are mere 13 years old with limited education resources, I didn’t expect to see such impeccable English and Maths performances in their work books. They even spoke to us in good English that made me felt very proud of them.

The scar of the 2007 Election Violence had left a deep wound to the Mutate Primary School, all the teachers left Molo as part of the school was burnt down with only the school principal stayed behind. Nevertheless, his will to educate the kids motivated him to re-build back the school. He got funds from the Chandaria Foundation (the richest man in Kenya) to re-build the classroom, and recruited several new teachers. In cooperation with GPF, the school and community form a committee represented by all tribes in Molo, where they have frequent meeting on peace-building. On the other hand, the school also introduced Character Education in the classroom, not as a subject, but through frequent dialogue/discuaasion, sports activities (especially football), and youth workshops. More over, the school did a smart move by making sure the kids from all tribes are schooled together. The reality is, segregation is the main cause of conflict. Segregation causes people to lack understanding and empathy with people of another tribe, subsequently disregard those people as lesser beings to justify the killings.

On the way back, we dropped by at a small town in Molo. We met the representatives of the youth initiative who were the driving force in educating other young people. They organize numerous programs, such as sports and youth development workshops. As we spoke to the young leaders, they expressed hope and enthusiasm in the achievement of the programs. The Football Competition managed to bring together young people from all tribes for the first time, while the youth workshops taught young people about basic life skills to earn money/do business, and empower them to be peace makers. Youth empowerment is important because the lacked of economic development may add fuel for hatred and tribalism to slip in, as land issues has always been the source of conflict. According to the youth, the workshops has helped to improve the livelihood and interaction of the people in Molo. Nowadays, peace is in the mind of everyone here, the scar of conflict is too deep for a repeat.

Sustainability in peace-building is the aim of Global Peace Festival. Mean while, it is the role of the Molo people to maintain peace and stability through education and cooperation by all community. There’s a saying “If there’s peace in Molo, there’s peace in Kenya”. Politicians may be blamed for inciting tribal hatred and civil conflict, but it is vital for tribal leaders, schools, the police forces, NGOs, the government, the community and young people to rise against such tribal mentality and foresee that we are One Human Family after all.