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College choir in bid to slay ethnicity dragon

Sunday January 29 2012

PHOTO/FILE  AP commandant Kinuthia Mbugua inspects a guard of honour mounted by students during Carol Teachers' Training College second graduation ceremony in Rongai, Nakuru County.

PHOTO/FILE AP commandant Kinuthia Mbugua inspects a guard of honour mounted by students during Carol Teachers' Training College second graduation ceremony in Rongai, Nakuru County. 

By ANTHONY NJAGI [email protected]

Ms Milka Waithera was excited when Carol Teachers College in Nakuru County’s Rongai District opened its doors in early 2007.

She could not wait to join the institution to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

But the excitement was short-lived as just months later, marauding youths attempted to burn down the college at the height of the post-election violence in 2008.

Quick intervention by Administration Police officers saved the college.

As the country gears up for the next elections, the trainee teacher is not taking the prevailing peace for granted.

When Carol College choir launched an outreach programme to create awareness on the importance of ethnic harmony in the region later in 2008, she was among the first to sign up for the initiative.

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“Interaction with youths in the region has removed the suspicions that existed and now they appreciate the importance of the college in the area,” says Ms Waithera, a member of the peace caravan.

The students and staff of the college are out to ensure that their institution and the neighbouring community will never be at risk again due to ethnic and political animosity.

The Carol college choir peace caravan has been touring violence hotspots such us Molo township and Kuresoi to preach peace.

Tribal and land clashes, especially between rival communities in the region, have been common occurrence after every election since 1992.

Molo and Kuresoi were at the centre of the 2008 post-election violence.

“We discovered that many of the government and NGO–led peace initiatives were not working,” says Mr Maxwell Ongeta, a lecturer at the college and the choir leader.

Mr Ongeta says they decided to try a ‘home-grown’ approach, presenting songs and dances, which he says “has worked magic”.

Peace caravan

The peace caravan moves around areas perceived as violence hotspots around the Rift Valley.

They have visited Kuresoi, Molo,  Njoro, Kericho, Olenguruone and Eldoret, among other areas.

Mr Ongeta explains that they realised that it was mostly unemployed and idle youth who are used by politicians to engage in violence.

He says the peace caravan started an elementary computer training programme for youths in the area.

“This approach is working wonders in keeping the youth busy and keeping them away from trouble,” says Ms Waithera.

The group also goes around churches, market places, schools, and other public places performing skits, poems, songs and dances themed around peace. 

They also educate their audiences on the importance of economic, cultural and political co-existence.

And their efforts are bearing fruit. On Friday, the college choir was recognised by AP commandant Kinuthia Mbugua for their role in preaching peace in the volatile region.

Mr Kinuthia, who was the chief guest during the institution’s second graduation ceremony, praised the college for being at the forefront in promoting ethnic harmony in the Rift Valley.

He donated computers to the group to help further their mission.

“This initiative has worked magic not only in the college but also among residents,” said the college director Margaret Muigai.

Similar intiative

A similar initiative was started by residents of Burnt Forest to heal the wounds of the post-election violence.

The Intercommunity Peace Choir was founded by victims of the violence and has won national recognition for promoting peace.

In the run-up to confirmation of charges of crimes against humanity against four prominent Kenyans by the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber II last week, the choir had been busy preaching peace and co-existence among residents of Burnt Forest.