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Reconciliation after violence

Kenya, April 14, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Geri Manzano/Mercy Corps  </span>
    "Don't I look smart?" Gabriel asks about his Nike football uniform and shoes. Photo: Geri Manzano/Mercy Corps

The Mercy Corps program in Kenya is all about reconciliation after the period of violence in late 2007 and early 2008. Everyone in Kenya has "post-election violence" on the tip of their tongue, but many small groups supported by Mercy Corps are working to make sure such violence never happens again.

One example is the LEAP Sports Program. Working in partnership with a local Kenyan organization, Youth Consortium Kenya and Nike, it is changing many young lives in the Eldoret area of the country.

When I met Gabriel Gitau, 23, he was anxious to talk about the LEAP Program. He shared how the post-election violence led to the brutal killing of his father and how his family did not know what had happened to him for a month. The rest of the family had to flee and live in a displacement camp for two months.

When they returned home, Gabriel's mom fell ill, became paralyzed and had to leave the family. As the eldest son of four children, it fell on Gabriel to care for his siblings. He works to support them and pay their school fees.

Gabriel was understandably depressed after the death of his father and said he looked and felt sick. Football (which we know as soccer in the U.S.) was his only outlet.

His team eventually became part of the LEAP program. Through LEAP, Gabriel felt supported and learned about forgiveness. This program included various trainings, one of which is "Conflict Mitigation and Transformation."

"This helped me get strength," Gabriel said and moved him past his former intentions to take revenge. He now plays football in a mixed team which includes members of the tribe who killed his father.

He has taken a different path and he gives us all hope for the future of Kenya.