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AGLI Releases Malesi Kinaro for Peace Building in Kenya

At the beginning of the conflict in Burundi in October, 1993 and the Rwandan genocide in April, 1994, Malesi Kinaro was General Secretary for the Friends World Committee for Consultation—Africa Section (FWCC-AS). She visited both Burundi and Rwanda a number of times becoming a rare Kenyan who saw and understood the horror of those times. Unlike many Kenyans who thought that Kenya was an “island of calm” in the region, Malesi realized that Kenya could undergo the same types of ethnic conflicts. When AGLI proposed introducing the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) in Kenya, Malesi was one of the first to see the real need for the program.

After Malesi left FWCC-AS she founded two organizations. Before and during the 1992 Kenya elections, there had been substantial violence in the Rift Valley province with perhaps 1000 people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Malesi and her husband, John, were among those displaced as they had purchased a small farm near Turbo in the Rift Valley. Their house was destroyed, their animals killed, and crops looted. This led Malesi to spearhead the founding of Friends for Peace and Community Development (FPCD) in 1994 to work on the issues that underlay the violence at that time. FPCD became the AGLI partner in western Kenya for the introduction of AVP.

About the same time, the UZIMA (Wellness) Foundation was started by Miriam (Malesi’s sister) and Humphreys Were which focused on empowering Kenyan youth to live beneficial, constructive lives. Malesi was appointed the first Director “to put the dream into concrete programs.” Over the years, the UZIMA Foundation has reached at least 20,000 youth. In the last two years as part of its Peace, Justice and Leadership program, she has introduced the UZIMA youth to AVP and has developed a number of youth AVP facilitators.

In 2004, Malesi made a speaking tour of the United States where she raised sufficient funds to buy a plot of land and with the help of AGLI workcamps has now turned it into the Friends Peace Center—Lubao.

For over ten years Malesi and her family had not returnd to their farm. Recently they began cultivating it again. In the violence this year, she lost her house, maize store, toilet, the fence that had just been replaced, and the trees that had survived the previous crisis.

When the violence struck Kenya on December 30, 2007, many peacemakers in Kenya were shocked and paralyzed. Malesi, on the other hand, was visiting the displaced Kikuyu in the camps in Kakamega within two days. She implemented the idea of having peace T-shirts with “Friends for” on the front and “Peace” on the back. She quickly arranged a number of listening sessions for youth, UZIMA foundation employees, the staff at Eldoret prison, and elsewhere. She helped develop a one-day listening program for the Kisumu and later the Nairobi staff of the US Center for Disease Control. Forty-two sessions were held in Kisumu for 500 staff and three in Nairobi for 60 staff. She helped support the Peace Dialogues described on page 5.

Malesi is now laying down the responsibilities as Director of UZIMA. Since the youth were the ones who participated in the violence after the election and with AGLI’s current focus on conducting AVP with youth, the goals of these two organizations have become very similar.

In considering Malesi leadership and creativity in this time of crisis in Kenya, the Working Group of the African Great Lakes Initiative decided it was appropriate for Malesi Kinaro to become a released Friend. This concept had not been introduced among Quakers in Kenya previously, but it clearly seemed to fit this situation. Malesi has been released to pursue her peace making activities as she feels called to do for the 2008 calendar year. A Support Committee in Kakamega has been appointed to help her with her activities. If you would like to support her release, please mark the memo line of your check “Malesi Kinaro’s Release.”