An increasing number of companies are putting their resources in peace campaigns as Kenya prepares for historic elections next week.
The peace drive by both small and large companies seeks to counter negative political messages and electoral violence-related losses that left businesses with a bill of Sh10 billion five years ago.
While many are hopeful the elections will be peaceful, the private sector players are not taking any chances. Paint firms, construction companies and flower growers have joined the growing list of investors shifting their publicity budgets to focus on peace campaigns.
“Our aim is to foster harmony among Kenyans,” says Crown Paints Kenya CEO Rakesh Rao. The company launched its peace drive in Kibera slums last month and its message is on billboards in many areas.
Just like Basco Paints is using its Dura Coat brand to spread peace, Crown Paints shows how its various colours of paints blend easily to urge unity among Kenya’s 42 tribes.
At the PG Bison’s offices, a supplier of interior building materials based in Nairobi’s Industrial area, workers have collected over 4,000 commitment signatures of people vowing to keep peace during and after elections.
“This campaign calls the public to think as Kenyans first by weighing their words and taking actions that promote peace,” said managing director Hitesh Mediratta.
These campaigns join those already mounted by local media houses, big firms such as Safaricom as well as those sponsored by government bodies such as Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission, Special Programmes ministry and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission.
“Kenya belongs to all of us and PG Bison is excited to play a part in ensuring that there is peace. We hope other organisations and individuals will play their role as responsible citizens in ensuring that the 2013 elections are peaceful, ” said Mr Mediratta.
The Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), an umbrella body for industrialists, estimates that the industry lost over Sh10 billion and more than 4,000 jobs in the 2008 post-election violence.
During that year, foreign direct investment also plummeted by almost 75 per cent from Sh63.4 billion ($729 million) to Sh15.9 billion ($183 million).
“A repeat of the same could bring the industry to its knees,” says KAM chief executive Betty Maina, adding that investors are holding their cards close to chest as they await the outcome of the March elections.
Officials in government are reassuring the country that the March 4 elections will end peacefully.
“There is a different environment now. Rift Valley was tense, now it is not, people are just discussing while five years ago there was violence,” Internal Security permanent secretary Mutea Iringo said.
Kenya has invited election observers from European Union, US and East African Community. The team appears to be reading from the same script as political campaigns enter homestretch.
“We have found the electoral campaign generally peaceful thus far, and the centre urges all Kenyans to commit themselves to non-violent participation in the electoral process,” election observers from US-based Carter Centre said in a statement.