WHEN post-electoral violence in Kenya in the late 2000s turned tribal, a nun found herself being victimised – and had to be hidden by the other nuns.
The experience inspired her to tackle post-electoral violence through academic studies – in the hopes that Kenya and other African countries would embrace a model for mediation that would allow for free and fair democratic elections.
Sister Anne Celestine Achieng Oyier Ondigo, a Franciscan Sister of St Joseph (based at Asumbi, Kenya), graduated with her PhD in conflict management from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).
“Electoral violence is threatening to become an intractable source of conflict on the African continent, making it increasingly difficult for emerging democracies to consolidate their status as free democratic societies … Most intractable violence is caused by political differences and political irresponsiveness.”
She is hoping the mediation model she has developed for electoral violence will make “a unique and important contribution to the conflict resolution and peace-building field”.
It is not the first time Sister Anne has tackled a difficult social issue. When she completed her Education degree at the University of Nairobi in Kenya in 2005, she wrote a paper on the need to review the school curriculum, which she said was “psychologically and physically, negatively affecting Kenyan children”.
For her Master’s degree at Hekima College, a Constituent College of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, her thesis was on “transforming the youth culture of violence in secondary schools and the role of peace education”.
“I look at the world, especially Africa. It needs a lot of social reform … Human beings need to be reminded all their time of their responsibilities. What is right, integral and ethical?”
Through her work as a teacher in government girls’ schools in Kenya, she has also tackled social reform. For instance, working with other key stakeholders, she fought to rescue young girls who were married against their consent. “We put up girls’ boarding schools to protect the girls and assist them to go through their education smoothly, marrying after their successful education.
“The strong desire to liberate these girls put us into conflictual and tensed relationship with some of the girls’ parents. To the joy of the community and the entire nation, many of these girls are now leading figures in the country.”
She has also worked in prisons as a volunteer to initiate a “psycho-peace programme”, working with prisoners, their families and communities, as well as the victims and the victimised. “The idea was born from a long observation of the experiences of ex-prisoners; being rejected by family members and even killed by some community members. This practice is escalating and goes unabated, unchallenged, and unstopped here in Kenya and many parts of Africa. The Programme aims at promoting peace and enhancing social harmonious relationship in and out of prison.
“I have the passion to join fellow women educators in forming and informing the conscience of the people towards ethical transformation for the common good of all.”