At the Center of the National Dialogue Process

By Rolex Mwamba

The past two years have been a hallowed period in my work experience at the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya. Coordinating some activities under the National Dialogue Process at the IRCK secretariat is a tremendous honour. An experience that is both humbling but also not short of challenges. Inspiring because of the flicker of hope that can be attributed to the concerted responses of Religious Leaders and like-minded partners to the numerous challenges that our country is facing. Challenging on the other hand due to the near insurmountable expectation the people of Kenya have placed on Religious Leaders hoping that they can perpetually bring the country back on track during tumultuous periods.

Senior Religious Leaders at the Launch of the National Dialogue Framework on the 28th February 2018. The pressure on religious leaders to fix the country’s leadership is on the rise.

A process involving senior religious that begun in 2016 as a response to the deadlock on the team at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that would eventually conduct the 2017 General Election has continued to jell, united by the common desire of making Kenya a better place.

“The team has subsequently spend the better part of 2019 conducting County Dialogue Conferences in the counties to gather views from people on the “Kenya we want”.”

Looking back from my standpoint as a member of the Technical working Group of the dialogue process, a number of issues stand out. First, the reassuring unity of purpose among the Religious Leaders. For some time now, the clergy representing Muslim, Christian and Hindu faithful in Kenya have continued to meet to agonise over various issues including rampant corruption, insecurity, devolution, weakening economy, ethnic division and lack of cohesiveness among other pressing issues of national concern. They are guided by the belief that long lasting solutions can only be attained when men and women of this great nation put aside all differences and unanimously agree to pull together towards prosperity. Their sense of charity has been tremendous. With marginal resources, the team continues to hold national level forums with a wide range of stakeholders to build consensus on issues of common concern. This include two Multi-Sectoral Fora in the run up to the 2017 elections and one National Dialogue Conference in September 2018.  The team has subsequently spend the better part of 2019 conducting County Dialogue Conferences in the counties to gather views from people on the “Kenya we want”. The 42 county dialogue conferences held so far have been so rewarding. The conferences have put flesh on the discussions that have been held previously in national forums. They have brought out the beautiful diversity of ideas we have as a nation. At the conclusion of the county dialogues, the Religious Leaders will convene another national dialogue to provide space for all stakeholders to build consensus on the path that would lead to restoration and healing of our beloved country.   

“It is obvious that employing similar approaches over a period of time is often the surest recipe for fatigue and indignation. Not for this group!”

One common denominator that has come out clearly under this process is the value of humanity. This has been manifested in work ethics among my colleagues at the IRCK secretariat, the respective faith communities we work with as well as our partners both at the national level and in the counties. The corporation and optimism even when things don’t seem to be working never cease to reassure and motivate.  It is obvious that employing similar approaches over a period of time is often the surest recipe for fatigue and indignation. Not for this group! Strategy meeting at 7.00 a.m.-some on very short notice- has become a norm. Travelling to far flank parts of Kenya on rough and uncomfortable terrains have never elicited any complaints. Stories of team work, comradeship and resilience can be told of each and every Religious Leader who is part of this dialogue process and the technical team which supports them in their quest for a just, peaceful, united and developed nation. 

This reflection will not be complete without mentioning the high level of tolerance exhibited by the Religious Leaders and the technical team of the dialogue process. As earlier mentioned, the country generally expects Religious Leaders to solve the leadership deficit in the country. Well, we all know that the challenges that predate the birth of the Kenyan nation still remain unresolved. The root causes of these challenges might take several generations to correct. In such circumstances, criticism from various groups is likely to become commonplace. However, experience has shown us that criticism forms an integral part of our work because it provides a mirror through which we look at our strategies and plans and sharpen them further.

Facilitating a briefing session for Kirinyaga County Dialogue Reference Group in Kutus on 13th December 2019 in preparations for the County’s Dialogue Reference Group

It is said that even the weak become strong when united. It is in this spirit that we are committed to create more spaces for discernment on how to make Kenya a better nation. When it is all said and done, the desired transformation will only come as a result of change of minds and hearts of all Kenyans. That is why the Religious Leaders will continue to utilise all the resources available to them to speak to the hearts and minds of all with the view to inspiring a more patriotic and upright nation.

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