Mombasa County: Youth in Mombasa County and parts of Coastal Kenya have stepped up their peace campaigns in a bid to tame electoral related violence.
Mombasa County is one of the regions that had been identified by the National Cohesion and Integrity Commission as a possible hotspot for violence before, during and after the general elections.
As a way of preventing electoral related violence in Kisauni, youth have been organizing soccer matches aimed at raising awareness on the need for harmonious coexistence among communities living in Mombasa County.
This was evident during the Youth Sports for Peace tournament held recently in Frere Town playground.
At exactly 9.00 am, young men start to arrive at the Frere Town play ground, one of the few remaining public sporting grounds in the coastal town of Kenya.
They are ready to play despite the dusty conditions and lack of proper markings of an official soccer field. But that does not seem to bother the more than 80 young men drawn from four local football clubs; All Stars, Frere Town, Juventus F.C and Kings Wear Sports FC.
But before the teams face off on the field, the Chairman of Kisauni Conflict Management Panel Mr. Ngalla Kuze addresses the teams and the growing crowd of spectators from different communities in the area.
“This is no ordinary soccer match, but a friendly match that seeks to enhance our relationship as a community following a busy political campaign season”, said Kuze
The vibrant and multi-ethnic Frere town is usually a ghost of itself during the electioneering period. Many of the area residents retreat to their home villages or safe areas for fear of violence.
According to the area Chief Mr. Said Shume, politicians have the tendency to use the youth in creating tension and bolstering ethnic divisions among the locals.
Mramba Thoya, the captain of All Stars football team notes that the soccer matches have helped them rise above handouts and empty promises from politicians.
“It is refreshing to see hundreds of youth and community members come out to cheer us as we play and advocate for peace, unity and tolerance of diversity. This is a promising trend compared to the past elections”, said Thoya.
The football matches have also helped the young sports participants to become responsible and engage in other income generating activities when not playing.
The groups say they will continue to play long after the election season is over. They hope to inspire other youth groups from different communities to form soccer teams of their own as a way of improving their livelihoods and advocating for civility in political discourse.
Through initiatives such as the soccer for peace leagues, Act! is bringing communities together to maintain peace and promote national unity.