During the summer 2012 holiday, Eddy Gicheru Oketch, ALA Inaugural class graduate and student at Trinity College Hartford, spent his holiday in his home country Kenya to work with the Peace for Africa and Economic Development (PAD) team in organizing an ambitious national youth peace, entrepreneurship and leadership convention. Kenya, under a new constitutional dispensation is organized under 47 federal governance counties. PAD’s convention sought to bring together 10 of the most influential youth and rebel groups leaders from all the 47 counties for a one-week training that was aimed at commissioning these 470 participants as national peace ambassadors for the country, and establishing income-generating enterprises for the youth.
Eddy is the founder of Peace for Africa and Economic Development (PAD) a non- partisan local organization in Kenya, committed to promoting peace and mutual understanding among peoples of different ethnicities – especially youth, and assisting young people to direct their intellect and energies toward positive change.
Eddy started PAD as a peace initiative following the 2007-2008 post election violence in Kenya. In December 2007, Kenya had disputed general elections that turned to grievous post-elections violence through mid- 2008. The violence, according to Ushahidi.com, “claimed the lives of over 1,200 people, displaced over 300,000 people and around 42,000 houses and businesses were looted and destroyed.” Significant lack of economic empowerment in the youth population and deep-seated negative ethnicity among the major 42 ethnic groups in Kenya were observably at the center-point of the conflict, more than the flawed elections outcome.
When asked why his initiative is important, Eddy said: “…tribal animosities observed domineering clashes in Kenyan socio- political scene as are in other countries in Africa, especially during electioneering periods, are not the root causes of violence but a direct result of economic emptiness and marginalization that cements poverty among the have-nots. There is a great need to build solutions that can lead to economic strength of the people as an underlying challenge, especially the youth who are experiencing gross unemployment yet they are the majority of the population. Without economic emptiness, there can be no such deep-seated negative ethnicity and grievous conflicts. ”
PAD’s approach is particularly important because it focuses on the fundamental lack of economic empowerment among majority of young people that make them vulnerable to political and tribal manipulation. Eddy’s initiative mobilizes youth to interact at an annual conference where they can share ideas and get exposure to networks and opportunities. The conference focuses on the involvement of youth in finding and implementing solutions to social problems. PAD’s intervention model seeks to economically empower youth and also seeks to create champions of peace throughout the country.
Many ALA graduate students were hugely involved in the planning of the convention that graduated the participants as national peace ambassadors and jumpstarted 15 diverse, scalable and bankable income-generating youth enterprises as evaluated by Equity Bank’s SME general manager, Mr. Timothy Biwott.
After attending the PAD convention, participants were crowned national peace ambassadors. These ambassadors have significant followers in their localities and hence were expected to work with the youth in their community to influence local peace building leading up to the March 2013 presidential elections in Kenya; and to implement the established community action income-generating projects.
After a succesful PAD convention, Eddy took a semester off from Trinity University in 2013 to go back to Kenya to help lead the efforts of his organization, PAD, in reducing potential election violence in the March 2013 presidential elections. Through PAD, Eddy helped lead several peace programs related to the Kenyan elections and various economic empowerment projects for youth in Kenya.
PAD is currently one of the largest peace initiatives in Kenya. Eddy won the 2012 Impact Award from the Kenyan Diaspora and was also named a panelist at the 2012 G8 summit for his impactful work with PAD.