Kenya: U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec Salutes Kenyans

press release

The U.S. Embassy invites media to join Ambassador Robert Godec and Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Karen Freeman in a ceremony to recognize the efforts of Rift Valley civil society organizations, including members of the Rift Valley Yes Youth Can youth bunges, to staff a system that provided early warning of, and response to, potential violence during the period surrounding Kenya's 2013 general elections.

Background: USAID-funded Local Empowerment for Peace (LEAP) took a lead in coordinating Early Warning/Early Response (EWER) in the Rift Valley leading up to the General Elections. The LEAP program trained nearly 600 peace monitors, located throughout six counties in the Rift Valley, on how to observe, report, and respond to signs of early warning/early response. It also established an impressive network of responders - both from civil society and local administration (including the police). Mercy Corps, through the LEAP program, has been working in the Rift Valley since late 2008 to strengthen the local peace networks in the aftermath of the 2007/08 post-election violence.

In the months before the election, the LEAP program identified potential conflict hotspots and organized activities in these areas, engaging the local peace networks - including Peace Committees, peace monitors, and youth bunge members. These activities included peace caravans, peace messaging, radio talk shows, community dialogue events, and pre-election stakeholders' forums. LEAP actively engaged the police, provincial administration, and other first responders to strengthen the linkages between early warning and early response.

In the week leading up to the elections, the LEAP program operationalized two EWER hubs - in Molo and Eldoret - to monitor and respond to early warning alerts. Each hub was staffed by three data analysts and a dispatcher who monitored the Uchaguzi platform (3002 shortcode) while simultaneously receiving information from peace monitors via cell phone. Nairobi-based Uchaguzi relied on the EWER hub staff to monitor and coordinate any responses in the North and South Rift. The hubs were able to swiftly reach out to their monitors in the field and then pass the information along to the appropriate responders.

The EWER Hubs were co-located with the "virtual" UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) regional humanitarian hubs allowing for greater information sharing between the humanitarian and conflict prevention actors. The UNOCHA hubs would only be mobilized in the event of a humanitarian crisis, which did not occur.

This successful effort to link humanitarian and conflict mitigation into a joint early warning/early response (EWER) hub is a model to be replicated in the future.

Media interested in attending are requested to contact Jim Ongowo to RSVP: Jim Ongowo, Information Specialist, U.S. Embassy, Nairobi (0) 722 735 542 ongowojo@state.gov

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