Internally displaced children, ethnic identity and peace building in Maai mahiu, 2007-2012
This study examines the importance and nature of ethnic identity in peace building. It emphasizes on the need of involving children in peace building and allowing their voices to be heard. Whereas previously children in conflict-affected areas have been viewed as “victims” needing help, this study suggests a paradigm shift whereby children are included in peace building mechanisms. Children are recognized as persons who can make their own decisions towards peace building. The study is significant because it introduces a paradigm shift from the previous one, which assumed that children must be represented by adults in order to have their issues heard and addressed. Most of the children’s issues have been addressed by adults on their behalf. But this study emphasizes that children need to participate in peace building. This is because of their large numbers in the population of Kenya. Also, children in the recent past have been involved in conflicts, sometimes as child soldiers and, on many occasions, their needs and views are different from those of the adults. Therefore they,too, need to be included in any peace building mechanisms, if peace is to be realized.In order to understand ethnic identity, constructivism theory was used. This theory holds the view that ethnic identities are fluid and can be socially constructed and reconstructed. This is the same with the concept of peace. Ethnic identity is a social radar which helps one make sense of the myriad constellations of the social relationships they encounter. For example, the IDC viewed themselves as IDPs, a people of a different category from other ethnic groups, a phenomenon referred to as “emergent ethnic identity.” Since ethnic identities are highly malleable, this study has discussed ethnic identities in a context. It was done amongst the IDC in Maai Mahiu, after 2007 PEV to 2012, during the Grand Coalition Government. Qualitative methodology was used to collect data, since this phenomenon of ethnic identity could not be quantified numerically. Purposive and snowball sampling methods were applied. Primary data was collected through oral interviews, focus group discussions and observation, while secondary data was collected from relevant books, journals, articles and newspapers. The study focused on how ethnic identity can be useful in peace building in Kenya, especially after the PEV of 2007-2008. It also looked into the disadvantages of using ethnic identities in peace building. The study concluded that the IDC understood peace and peace differently from the adult respondents. Though IDC played some roles in peace building, they were largely unaware of this.Equally, ethnic identity had an influence on both the IDC and adults in peace building, though in different ways. It also shows that ethnic identity is important in restoring relationships at intra-personal, interpersonal and inter-group levels and can not be easily washed away. Finally, the study recommends that children should be actively involved in peace building in this country, if we are to bring up a generation that upholds a culture of peace. Secondly, extensive researches need to be done on ethnic identity and how it can enhance sustainable peace even among different ethnic groups, and more so the children.