The #WalkOfHope: Restoring Peace to the North Eastern Region

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July 13, 2015

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*Rest in peace Mzee Ojwang*

By now, i am sure you’ve heard of the inspirational movement that kicked off on 13th June from the Tana River Bridge: the #WalkOfHope.

Social change movements have always had their place in human society: from the civil rights protests led by Martin Luther King to our very own My Dress My Choice movement right here within our borders.

There are those that opt to make their voices heard in person, such as Boniface Mwangi and other activists holding a mock funeral on the streets of Nairobi, as well as the unforgettable mpigs protest that raised some animal rights questions while being thought provoking as intended.

Not to be counted out are the online movements that keep travesties fresh in our minds and help to agitate for change, such as the Kasarani Detention Camp hashtags and social media movements that we have spoken about before.

Kenyans have and continue to use peaceful protests to call attention to what ails us, and the Walk of Hope is aimed at doing just that.

The almost 1,000 kilometer walk that began in Garissa and is to end at Kenya’s border with Somalia in Mandera is to take 30 days and include about 50 participants.

According to the organizers, the walk hopes to raise awareness to the struggles faced by the North Eastern Kenya region, with a strong emphasis on insecurity.

One of the main organizers, activist Salah Abdi Sheikh, stated that the walk intended to bring global knowledge to the toll that terrorism has taken on the area.

Already on the fringes of the country in terms of economic development and security efforts, the lives of residents have been at risk seemingly for as long as we can remember.

Inter-clan clashes, cattle rustling and raids from beyond the border have helped to contribute to a negative image of the region, leading to a silent alienation of it from the rest of the country- skilled professionals being hesitant to be posted to the region and help move its development along. With the recent attacks, though, the situation has gotten much worse.

Photo credit: Azeroth93 / Deviant Art

Photo credit: Azeroth93 / Deviant Art

We continue to mourn the cowardly attack on the Garissa University Campus, and while the rest of the world may have begun to forget, the North easter region remembers in a painful way.

The non local professionals from around the country played a large and important in the running of the region’s health care and educational centers, providing much needed services for the North Eastern region residents, including even specialised construction workers.

As the Garissa attack and subsequent security threats hung heavy in the air, the area saw a mass exodus of these very “imported” professionals, many of who have yet to return: leaving the area starved for human resources.

This is what the Walk of Hope aims at calling attention to, and inspiring a move to rectify. Garissa County Executive Members Sophia Sheikh Omar and Muktar Bubale showed their support for the initiative, trekking the 11 kilometers from the starting point to Modika.

The walk, which also was geared towards making stops at villages along the way and sensitizing them on the importance of keeping the peace by stopping clan clashes, has also received wide praise on social media.

Whilst our local mainstream local media somewhat give the walk a snub, the walk of hope has received a mention from a bigger mainstream international media.

I must mention that my home town Rhamu AKA Kiambu (for the hardship and enterprise minds) has so far given the selfless team the much needed heroic welcome.

While the representative of the County government of Mandera (except Mrs Sarah Bashir who attended at her private capacity) chose to be AWOL, it is not lost in observers list that the national government had a face in this welcoming ceremony in the form of the county deputy commissioner, one Mr. Kambi.

What began from the bridge of Tana River in Garisa early June is hopefully ending at the dusty town of Mandera early July. That shows how vast the neglected arid North Eastern remains. It is such move like the walk of hope that recreate our hope and dreams for the future.

Hopefully, this ambitious project achieves its long term goal of improving the standard of living for local residents by restoring the elusive peace to the region, and restarting the economy by making the area safe for non local businessmen, investors and professionals. We’re speaking out about the #WalkOfHope, are you?


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