Kenya

USAID/OTI Kenya success story: A new market marks a new beginning in burnt forest

Burnt Forest in the Rift Valley became a violent flashpoint after Kenya's flawed elections, and the town's market was destroyed. Animosity between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, the town's main tribal groups, led to ethnic segregation. And in place of the common marketplace, which had thrived before the conflict, two ethnically differentiated markets emerged.

However, just as spring brings hope, Burnt Forest again has an inclusive marketplace. And a series of grants from USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) helped bring the new market to fruition.

OTI's support allowed the Rural Women's Peace Link (RWPL) to conduct dialogue and reconciliation meetings where the community agreed that the market needed to be rebuilt. Subsequently, the Burnt Forest Town Council signed an agreement to manage the market in partnership with the RWPL. For one year, the parties will operate the market with a focus on promoting reconciliation and implementing peace activities. The Council will take full responsibility for the market's operations after the first year.

One town official said, "We are going to honor the agreement. We are fully in support of the project and reason for which [the market] is being rehabilitated." OTI also provided support for construction.

"The new market is a closure of the old wounds and the beginning of a new life. We, as women who will be trading in this market, will not allow a good thing such as this to go down in flames again."

-a trader at Burnt Forest's new marketplace

The inhabitants of Burnt Forest can now enjoy a marketplace that they see as a symbol of hope that marks a new beginning for the entire community. Visitors from neighboring counties have come to see the market, the largest of its kind in the region, and have expressed interest in using it as a model for developing markets in their communities. The market has also become a meeting point, and the additional traffic in the area has increased interactions between people and prompted residents to redouble their efforts to raise and sell produce.

The market was commissioned on May 18 at a ceremony attended by U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger, and the ceremony provided a forum for leaders to encourage peace and reconciliation within the community.

When asked what the community would do should there be another contested election in the country, the market's vendors and patrons quickly shook their heads and said that they would not allow violence to resurface. They said that everyone lost when the market was closed, with crops wasting away in the fields.

For further information, please contact:

In Washington, D.C.: Brendan Wilson-Barthes, Africa Program Manager, 202-712-5072, bwilson-barthes@usaid.gov.