The Obama administration is launching new peace initiatives in and around Kenya, but acknowledges that chronic cattle rustling and other cultural practices – such as killing rivals “to prove their manhood or impress young women” – serve as impediments to progress.
Obama, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, nonetheless intends to hire private contractors that would, hypothetically, offer services such as “reflective workshops” and “trauma education” to warring clans and tribes, according to an agency concept paper that U.S. Trade & Aid Monitor located through routine database research.
The purpose of such providing services is to encourage empathy between “victims” and “perpetrators” – terms that the document repeatedly encloses in quotation marks to emphasize USAID’s position that so-called “perpetrators” also have endured trauma.
Exchanging “trauma stories” between hostile groups is a critical step in the community healing process, USAID says, as this sharing helps to raise awareness that “victims” are often the “perpetrators,” particularly when they carry out acts of revenge. This approach is one of several that USAID is proposing.
The “PEACE III” concept paper offers detailed ideas aimed at promoting stability across East African border regions. USAID recently released the paper to solicit feedback from contractors on various “theories of change” that could be implemented as part of future Horn of Africa peace and reconciliation programs.
The Obama administration hopes to create “healing peace-building cycles” that ultimately will replace “cycles of violence,” particularly along multiple conflict-prone points on the Kenya-Uganda, Kenya-South Sudan, Kenya-Ethiopia, Kenya-Somalia, and Ethiopia-South Sudan borders.
USAID said in the document that attaining such stability “is a central U.S. foreign policy and development priority in the context of regional security and economic integration.”
The agency acknowledges that the task ahead will be difficult, as “certain cultural practices and norms” in the Horn of Africa “may encourage acts of violence.”
“For example, in the western border areas, spiritual leaders bless the warriors before and after cattle raids,” the concept paper says. “A warrior is believed to have defended the pride of his clan and proven his manhood when he murders a man from the enemy tribe/clan.
“Songs and dances prepared for such warriors stir other warriors and young men to engage in murder and cattle raids. Women rebuke the warriors who have not been successful in raids rousing them to raid again,” the paper points out.
Despite the cultural, political, and economic challenges to successfully implementing conflict management programs, USAID says it had identified a “multitude of determined, credible, and committed actors at the regional, national, and local levels” that in the long term could help bring more “stability, peace, and prosperity to this part of the world.”
“The region is also witnessing a shift in national government commitment to peaceful management of conflicts,” the agency added.
Community peace-building efforts have led to some security improvements, especially in areas such as the Kenya-Somalia border, USAID says. Community leaders – including women, religious, business, youth, and elders – have helped mediate disputes before they escalate, thereby changing cultural practices that often lead to inter-communal violence.
Weaker governments, however, sometimes view these informal systems as rivals. Rather than supporting those systems, such governments attempt to undermine or simply ignore them, dismissing such organizations and activities as irrelevant.
“In several locations, most notably Kenya, the government has even sought to institutionalize this governance partnership nationally, via local peace and development committees,” the document says. The PEACE III initiative consequently will “focus on catalyzing the emergence and development of local peace-building networks in volatile border areas.”
Despite proposed cuts in U.S. foreign assistance to most nations – including Kenya – the Obama administration nonetheless has sought to sustain other contractors that already carry out voluminous projects in that nation.
As the Monitor also has reported, USAID under Obama likewise launched a propaganda program aimed at swaying national and international opinion to support Kenya-related U.S. programs.
Following that Monitor report – which exposed federal plans to target specific journalists – the Obama administration sanitized its FedBizOpps contracting database of all traces of that and other Kenya-centric procurement documents.
The Monitor, however, restored public access to the USAID/Kenya Strategic Communications Plan 2012-2013.
In a separate, recent solicitation, USAID is recruiting a Program Officer-Kenya for its Office of Transition Initiatives, where the private contractor would serve for the remainder of OTI’s scheduled stay in Kenya. The position in mid-2013 will transition to USAID-Kenya’s Education & Youth Office.
OTI had established a Nairobi-based presence as part of Obama’s “support of the February 28, 2008, peace accord between competing political parties in the wake of inter-ethnic violence following flawed national elections in December 2007,” the personal services contractor solicitation says.
One of the key responsibilities of the Program Officer-Kenya will be to “represent program interests with USAID Mission personnel, U.S. Embassy staff, Department of State, and Department of Defense personnel.” In addition to needing a top secret-level security clearance, potential candidates who are dual citizens “may be asked to renounce second-country citizenship.”
The position, which pays in the $84,697-$110,104 range, also involves providing guidance to and oversight of contractors carrying out the Support Which Implements Fast Transition, or SWIFT III, initiative.
SWIFT III is a $1.5 billion worldwide USAID program whose goal is to “support U.S. foreign policy objectives by helping local partners advance peace and democracy in priority countries in crisis.”
USAID additionally has launched an information-gathering initiative to identify local and regional consultants and organizations to provide future short- and long-term “technical services and capacity building assistance.” This would include services specific to agency cross-border peace projects to the USAID/East Africa mission in Nairobi.
The agency’s search for potential help via this Request for Information is not limited to Kenya, however; indeed, the RFI likewise seeks to compile a comprehensive list of consultants to potentially work with other USAID regional offices and partners in Somalia, Djibouti, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Tanzania.
A similar version of this article appeared via WND.com on March 9. Under agreement with WND, rights have reverted back to its author, Steve Peacock.