Profiles

Alice Wairimu Nderitu: Passionate peace, women rights campaigner

Alice Nderitu pic

Ms Alice Nderitu, a renowned armed conflict mediator has been appointed as the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

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Summary

  • Ms Nderitu has mediated among warring communities and in, some instances, areas where women are disregarded mainly because of stereotypes and ended the animosities.
  • The peace campaigner will be taking over the job as the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, adding to her rich curriculum vitae.
  • The author of several books and tens of publications, Ms Nderitu is widely remembered when she brought together some 100 elders from 10 ethnic communities in Nakuru and signed a peace accord.

The appointment of Alice Wairimu Nderitu to a top UN job did not come as a surprise to many going by the reactions that have swamped social media since the news was broken on Tuesday evening.

For those who know her, Ms Nderitu is a tireless peacemaker and conflict mediator. It is a job she has been doing for decades.

“I keep struggling to find the words to convey what a brilliant choice she is for this role,” said Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security.

Public Service Cabinet secretary Margaret Kobia said: “I am thrilled to learn of the appointment of Alice Wairimu Nderitu as UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. She has been a recognised voice in the field of peacebuilding and violence prevention in Kenya and an active member of the Companionship of Works Organisation (CoWA). We celebrate this achievement.”

Ms Nderitu, a former commissioner at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), is a renowned conflict mediator.

She has traversed the country and the world talking peace and bringing together warring people.

Ms Nderitu has mediated among warring communities and in, some instances, areas where women are disregarded mainly because of stereotypes and ended the animosities.

The peace campaigner will be taking over the job as the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, adding to her rich curriculum vitae.

The author of several books and tens of publications, Ms Nderitu is widely remembered when she brought together some 100 elders from 10 ethnic communities in Nakuru and signed a peace accord.

During the one-and-a-half year peace process, the group addressed sources of ethnic conflict and a history of violence in the Rift Valley.

Ms Nderitu, a columnist for The EastAfrican, a weekly publication by Nation Media Group, is also one of the founders and the first co-chair of Uwiano Platform for Peace, a conflict prevention agency that uses mobile technology to encourage citizens to report indicators of violence.

The platform worked effectively and ensured a peaceful 2013 General Election.

In one of the articles on war against extremists in the society, Ms Nderitu warned that the illicit arms trade and the accompanying proliferation of small and light weapons sustain violent extremism.

“It is, therefore, naive to expect those profiting from the violence to have value for peace or preventing violence,” she wrote.

Cautioning that relying only on force, as a response to extremist, may make matters worse.

“Winning over the people living in the affected areas continues to remain a crucial strategy.”

Other critical organisations she has founded in her efforts to foster peace among communities are Community Voices for Peace and Pluralism, a network of African women professionals preventing, transforming and solving violent, ethnic, racial and religious conflicts worldwide.

She holds a Master of Armed Conflict and Peace Studies (2013) and a Bachelor of Arts, Literature and Philosophy (1990) from the University of Nairobi.

Among the awards she has won over the years in recognition for her peaceful works include the 2017 Global Pluralism Award, the 2018 Jack P. Blaney Award for Dialogue, 2012 and Woman Peace Maker of the Year awarded by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

In the region, Ms Nderitu was the lead mediator in a peace process involving 29 ethnic communities in Kaduna State, Nigeria, which led to the signing of the Kafanchan Peace Declaration.

“The danger with stereotyping even where there is no undue threat or harm by the stereotyped is the invocation of hate, raising the possibility of actual violence,” Ms Nderitu wrote on xenophobia, warning that just like genocide, it begins with name-calling.

new perspectives

She has always advocated all-inclusive talks to addressing conflicts by involving elders, whom she says are usually successful in de-escalating conflict, women, who were previously excluded from and who bring in new perspectives and ensuring the sustainability of ways agreed and the youth who bear the brunt or involved in the violence.

Since January 2013, she has served as a member of Kenya National Committee on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes against Humanity and all Forms of Discrimination.

“Conflict is a fact of life. Violence and conflict do not mean the same thing because conflict involves choices that include interventions before it becomes violent.

“We must now join hands to work towards the kind of interventions that promote community ownership of peace,” says Ms Nderitu.