Utilizing Sports to Mitigate Conflict and Foster Development

Utilizing Sports to Mitigate Conflict and Foster Development

Utilizing Sports to Mitigate Conflict and Foster Development

Sport plays a significant role in promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, by fostering social cohesion, promoting understanding, and bridging divides among individuals and communities. It is a tool used to address social issues, promote peacebuilding, and advancing positive change in communities. At MIDRIFT HURINET we have taken up sports as an essential platform for uniting communities in conflict, generating dialogues where communities participate and contribute to social progress, and development. Over the years, we have employed sports in different programs as a peacebuilding and conflict resolution channel for addressing peace and security in Nakuru and Baringo counties.

Under the Kenya Electoral Conflicts Mitigation and Civic/Voter Education Support (ECCES) Program for instance, we used sports to bring politically conflicting communities of Nakuru’s Njoro sub-county to help them address the drivers of conflict, promote resilience against political incitements, and cohesion through a people-centered approach to put an end to the violence cycle experienced among the communities. During the sporting events, the communities also engaged in community building and integration dialogues that aimed to empower the community members participate in democratic processes, lead-voter/civic education, and implement local strategies to mitigate and prevent electoral violence. As a result, this saw an increase in the number of registered voters, more youths participating in elections and most importantly, Njoro saw the first ever peaceful elections in 2022 where no cases of evictions, intercommunal conflict or loss of lives/property reported.

Similarly, in Nakuru Town East and West sub-counties, under the GAME project, sports have been used as an educational and life-skill development tool where youths and children have been engaged in leadership, role-modeling, problem-solving, conflict resolution and violence prevention lessons in a transformational approach for positive change. Since its launch in 2022, the project seeks to contribute to a reduction in violent incidences and frequency of crime and violence committed by vulnerable youths in Nakuru county. Playmakers under this project lead not only sports tournaments (basketball and football) but also dialogue sessions centered around social cohesion and inclusion, empowerment, gender equality and community development.

At the 7 game zones in Nakuru, over 2000 youths and children have been engaged in the project, significantly improving their levels of confidence, teamwork, emotional awareness, school performance, responsibility, levels of discipline and general behavioral change. The project has also significantly reduced criminal activities in the two sub-counties previously on authorities radar, by addressing social emerging issues among the youth, encouraging them to create their own solutions to address criminal mindsets and commit to the implementation of the solutions. At the game zones, the playmakers formed peer groups that hold each other accountable prompting positive progressive transition among those involved.

For sustainability, all sports-for-peace and development beneficiaries showed accountability and ownership for the lessons learnt by creating their own interventions away from MIDRIFT’s involvement. The Ogiek and Kipsigis community members in Njoro formed 7 football teams that engaged in sub-county and County football league matches, bringing together members of all communities in the subcounty as players or supporters of the matches. this has resulted in the establishment of lasting friendships for sustainable peace and continue to exhibit intercommunal tolerance and peaceful coexistence in their communities. Playmakers under the GAME project have replicated the project, and have continued to conduct self-initiated sports practices and dialogue sessions in their neighborhoods. Some of the practices include Hygiene Talks, Mental Health and Suicide Awareness dialogues and Young Mothers support program at different game zones.

Nakuru now boasts a safe and secure communities, where its members are taking lead in their own initiatives to promote peace in the region. Sports continues to be an instrumental tool used in bringing young people together to discuss matters of inter-communal peace and social cohesion, since the youth, who form a majority of the population are mostly used by politicians and other persons of influence to instigate and perpetrate violence. Sports for peace has therefore proven to be a catalyst for sustainable peace in the community.

To see more on the change impacted in the sub-county, click here:

By Judy Gathura

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