De-escalation of Political Tension

Mindset, Skill Set and Tool Set helps in de-escalation of Political Tension

Election related violence in Kenya often takes the form of inter communal violence. Often it involves informal groups clashing along identity lines. In the previous electioneering years, Nakuru has been listed as a hotspot for election related violence and this year it was not any different. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) developed a 13 variable matrix to identify counties that are likely to witness election related violence. As a result 23 counties were identified as conflict hotspots including Nakuru. As the election day drew closer, the majority of the community members greatly aligned themselves politically based on who their preferred candidate was and this, in some instances, contributed to tribal and communal alignment which led to tensions among people with divergent political ideas.  There have been informal sittings within Nakuru West Sub-County where supporters of different political factions converge to discuss and drum up support for their preferred candidates. In an isolated case where two opposing factions indulged into a heated, emotional and hate eliciting political argument pitting those aligned to UDA and those to Azimio turned violent.

A PBLD leader from the creative industry (sector) after listening in on the conversation, and deeply analyzing the situation, intervened  and stopped the confrontation asking them to first sit back and reflect  whether what they were doing was necessary looking at  the outcome, which could have been fatally violent, would be beneficial to them. He was able to moderate the discussion towards looking into the accrual benefits in whoever shall be elected both at individual and wider place rather than advancing individual political leader’s agenda. They agreed onwards to  come together and preach peace before, during and after the elections.

The PBLD leader deployed knowledge gained on emotional intelligence at the personal level and collective inquiry at the group level to de-escalate tension and conflict. Leading the discussion towards appreciative inquiry as opposed to finger pointing with negative biases towards individualism to quell political leaning always characterized for creating tension with violent outcomes, he acknowledges that previously, he would have joined the argument as he also has his political leaning but because of the leadership concepts and themes from modules 1 to 4, he was able to critically reflect and apply the concepts.

By shifting mindset from shaping the discussion to suit one’s political desires that could infuse and spur violence, the parties were able to craft narratives that speak towards violence prevention in their subsequent sittings even after the announcement of the presidential results where one group had lost.

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