Why Sisi ni Amani? Interview with Ramadhan Obiero, by Megan Turner

July 14, 2011

Ramadhan Obiero is a member of the Sisi ni Amani- Kenya Kasarani local chapter and has spent months working for SNAK out of a dedication to strengthening the foundation of peace in the community.  Part of this dedication stems from his experiences with Post Election Violence in 2007.  Following the announcement that President Kibaki had won the election, fighting broke out almost instantaneously.  Interestingly enough, Rama notes, the fighting was mainly in the informal settlements- not the wealthier parts of Kenya.  In his perspective, the wealthy were coming into the informal settlements and manipulating the impoverished youth.  To combat the misuse of information, Rama began speaking with the youth telling them that even if the votes were stolen, violence was not the answer to their issues.  He did this in his village for two weeks until his neighbors began to see him as a traitor.  To protect himself, he moved to another village continuing to tell the youth that violence was not the answer.   In addition to this, he took charge of organizing security for international and local media houses to gain footage of the violence.  Also, he volunteered the center for his organization, ACREF, as a distribution center for food and medical supplies through UNHCR.

Rama cites his curiosity regarding the various ways of mobilizing the youth as a mainstay for his involvement in Sisi ni Amani Kenya.  While several community organizations utilize sports, competition, and dramas as ways to spread information, SNA-K provides a new, inventive way to spread information.    In urgent, tense situations, the SMS system is beneficial because information can be spread at all hours of the day- not necessarily something that a soccer game or theater could fulfill.  It serves as an inexpensive and convenient way to disseminate information.  Rama attributes his dedication to SNA-K to the fact that once he starts something, he begins it.  He believes that once other organizations learn about SNA-K, other communities will want to start a local chapter.  It is his hope that Kasarani will serve as an example to others communities and will result in a community where the youth is united and unable to be manipulated for others gain.

An important facet of SNAK is the strong emphasis on the role of local leadership in the implementation of the SMS system.  Rama says that this is the best way to conduct development as he, and others on the leadership team, have been victims of large organization entering a community, utilizing him temporarily for photographs and information, and then leaving without warning the local community.  The way that SNA-K runs their project, however, ensures that they take ownership of the project.  In addition the project is more effective because they know the problems of the community, the root causes, and joint community ownership lessens tension in the community because the resources belong to everybody.  Also, the local leadership team understands how to phrase the messages so as to ensure maximum attention as well as comprehension.  Occasionally, an international organization may try to spread a message but its meaning will be lost in translation- not an issue when the local leaders speak the language and are from the community.

Sisi ni Amani Kenya Kasarani Chapter will continue long after the current director leaves- they have made it so that they can sustain themselves which ensures the longevity and sustainability of the project.