The fifth edition of the Sports for Peace football tournament, an initiative geared towards building peace and harmony among the pastoral communities of Marsabit County, took place in August 2017 in Marsabit, Northern Kenya. The aim of the tournament was to bring together communities that have been experiencing inter-ethnic wars.
Born in a pastoralist community which has experienced inter-ethnic clashes and cattle rustling for many years, and having seeing many of his colleagues die fighting for their community, Johnstone Ndumba deeply thought of how he could be involved in building lasting peace in his community. Johnstone adopted the idea of sports among the youth, an avenue that he has been using to speak about peace. Peace that he thinks can lead to unity and cohesion among all the communities living in the region.
Marsabit is a region located in northern Kenya and is home to many tribal communities: Borana, Burji, Gabra, Samburu, Rendille and Leyai. For many years these communities have been involved in inter –ethnic wars that have caused several deaths. Due to tribal clashes, the region has lagged behind in development, and numerous children are not in a position to go to school consistently due to interferences.
For over ten years, the non-governmental organization HAP FORUM, headed by Elizabeth Kanini, a close collaborator of the Catholic diocese of Marsabit, has been operating to promote lasting peace in the region. It has helped local leaders from all communities come together and discuss ways to foster and build peace.
Johnstone noticed that the youth, who constitute the largest share of the region’s population, did not have a venue where they could share their proposals for peace building. Hence, he and Elizabeth came up with the idea of the Sports for Peace tournament.
The first edition of the football tournament was held in Marsabit in 2013, bringing together various teams from the communities. The tournament lasted for ten days in which teams played from the elimination stage up to the final stage.
The tournament is first of all an opportunity for all the young people from Marsabit to come together and display their talents. Secondly, it is an event that helps bridge gaps among the communities. Over time, the tournament has fostered good relationships among the youth from all the communities, allowing them to overcome the negative barriers that had been hindering peace among them. Now, they have become good friends at home and in school. Since that first edition, the football tournament has been taking place every year.
At the end of every tournament, the teams come together to share a meal and celebrate the team that did well. The bottom line is that everyone is a winner.
Recently, the organizers received some trophies from well-wishers. These trophies are now used to encourage each team to put a lot of effort in training so that it can emerge as the best.
Inter-ethnic clashes had seriously affected development and school activities at a very high rate. Instead, it has been noted that the promotion of sports activities in the region has resulted in an increase in development and cohesion among the communities. It is clear that if more resources could be directed towards events and activities that engage the young people, this could be of great contribution towards peace building. A more united world and peaceful society is in the hands of the youth.