How conflict in Turkana made me peace ambassador
When he was a young boy, Francis Kooli and his siblings had gotten used to the frequent conflicts and bandit attacks coming from the Pokot community.
Back in his Kakuma home in Turkana County where Kooli grew up, cattle raids and sometimes murder of residents was a common picture. The 45-year-old vividly remembers one time that the Pokot cattle rustlers rounded them up. “Everyone scattered for safety and my younger brother was left helpless in the homestead. I braved the horror and went back to pick him,” he explained.
That is when the then young Kooli discovered the duty that he had in not only protecting his fellow Kenyans but also maintaining peace among warring communities.
Today, his efforts have borne fruit, thanks to Peace Ambassadors Kenya, an initiative he founded in 2012 in a bid to have young people spearhead peace in the country. “I started this initiative in 2012, after my 250 kilometre walk from Kakamega to Nakuru towards blood donation. This was in 2011 and after this, I received calls from young people who wanted to join me,” he says.
In his life in the administration police service, Kooli has worked in several conflict zones in the country, an experience that brought him face to face with the need for peace in those regions and in the country at large. He also got concerned at how residents would take off upon seeing a police officer and says he wanted people to see peace whenever they see the police. “I had worked in conflict areas in Transmara and Molo during the Post Election Violence. While in these areas, I felt that the youth were crucial in peace keeping. So I started peace talks at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology before proceeding to Moi University, KPA campus.
Kooli would later roll out the initiative in Kenya Medical Training College in Kakamega, Kenya Institute of Management, Chuka University, University of Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kima
thi University, Catholic University of Eastern Africa and Africa Nazarene University among others. All the students in the initiatives work on volunteer basis to mentor the high school students and promote peace in various parts of the country. Kooli adds: “We pair each of the 5,000 youth with a student in high school where they mentor them for the four years the student is in secondary school.”
And with the rising cases of radicalization of the youth, drug abuse and crime, Kooli is optimistic that Global Peace Ambassadors initiative will help create a responsible citizenry. “Although our offices are in Kakamega, we are in more than 30 institutions of higher learning. Student peace ambassadors in these institutions often visit various high schools to preach peace and explain to the young students why maintaining peace is their responsibility. This way, we are assured that we have saved a large part of the generation at the right time,” said Kooli.
Today, the initiative has over 5,000 peace ambassadors drawn from different universities, ethnic communities and professions.
Some of the partners of the initiative include the Kenya Catholic Trust, Kenya National Blood Transfusion, Kenya Redcross, World Vision, Institutions of higher learning and Administration Police that offers patronage to the initiative.
The Peace Ambassadors have ambassadors in Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe.
The Kenya National Blood Transfusion Mobiliser of the Year (2011)
Government of Kenya OGW (2011)
Peace Award from the National Peace Building