• Kenya has a youth bulge, with 18-34-year-olds making up 25 per cent of the population.
• These poor and employed youths have over the years been used by actors in conflict.
We are a developing nation with so much to be happy about but so much to be angry about at the same time.
Comparatively, Kenya has had relatively better leadership than most African countries.
Development wise, we are on a good path, at least in the urban areas, enjoy good bilateral relations and in terms of democracy, Kenya has the most vibrant civil society on the continent.
What, however, still remains with us is the high rate of unemployment.
Kenya has a youth bulge, with 18-34-year-olds making up 25 per cent of the population. These poor and employed youths have over the years been used by actors in conflict.
There are many societal problems that come with poverty, which include hunger and malnutrition, homelessness, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination, exclusion, as well as exclusion in decision-making.
Some politicians on both sides of the divide have, however, over time taken advantage of the poverty situation in the country for their selfish gain. While some advocate what is right, others incite.
Poverty causes of conflict, and vice versa. and it is now time to create awareness among the downtrodden in society and politicians on conflict, perceptions and its merits and demerits.
What is right and who is right in conflict?
To begin with, it may be good for all of us as Kenyans to understand that a no conflict situation in a country is preferable. However, for a peaceful group or society, it must be lively and dynamic, incorporating conflicts of behavior and goals and addressing them creatively.
Given we cannot run away from the fact that poverty is a major cause of conflict, a peaceful nation won’t be achieved until the problem is solved.
Our forefathers even knew the relationship between poverty and conflict, and in their peace building strategies they created proverbs such as one Kirundi saying that: If hunger passes all night in the belly, resentment awakens in the morning.
Another one in Lingala says, when the heart is in turmoil, the eyes cannot sleep.
Some of the perceptions used over time by those that avoid conflict situations are that: Conflict is negative and bad and, therefore, we should always try to avoid conflicts.
They say that conflict is a sign that someone has done something wrong. They also assume that conflict is something that troublemakers or difficult people start, and there is need to have effective ways to control people.
Ultimately, they resort to creating control and harmony to overcoming the opponent, and sometimes it must be done with some form of punishment or through violence or coercion.
Ultimately, in any vibrant society, conflicts are natural and can be handled. Conflicts occur where there are strong values and dreams expressed by the youth, for instance. Conflicts can, therefore, be enriching and can contribute in creating new ways to cooperate.
To have a near no conflict situation, the Kenya Kwanza administration, faces the uphill task of delivering its campaign promises such as job creation, bringing down the cost of living, economic reforms, infrastructure and housing, amid a public sector job freeze and a slump in the private sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It may not be as easy to have these fulfilled immediately, but something can surely be done, to reduce poverty, and thus conflict.
Conflicts contribute most, if they are handled by “win-win” methods. Indeed, as the Sudanese say, “A house in harmony, never crumbles”.
Vera is a part time lecturer and a communications researcher [email protected]