How to Fight al Shebaab and Build Peace — At the Same Time

The Boni Forest is a lush coastal ecosystem on the border between Kenya and Somalia. Its location and geography have made it an ideal hideout for al Shebaab — the Somali terrorist group that has launched some devastating attacks in Kenya over the last decade.

In 2015, Kenyan security forces mounted an operation to rid the region of al Shabaab. But their heavy-handed tactics alienated the local population, disrupting lives and livelihoods of the people who the security forces were ostensibly meant to protect. The military intervention was failing and people were less secure in their livelihoods.

That was until my guest today, Judy Kimamo, helped launch a grassroots peace conference for the region, known as the Boni Enclave Stakeholders Conference.  Over 130 groups attended the conference, including local leaders, government and security officials and various members of civil society.

That was in 2017.  Now, nearly three years later, the positive impact of that peace building effort is still being felt.

Judy Kimamo is the Kenya director for Search for Common Ground, an international non-profit specializing in peace building and conflict resolution. We kick off with an extended conversation about the security problems in the Boni Forest region and the government’s initial response, before having a wider conversation about what made her peace building efforts so successful — and what lessons others may draw in how to design a locally lead peace initiative.

When it comes to peace building, what she helped to pull off with the Boni Enclave Stakeholders Conference is quite cutting edge and I’m very glad to bring this story to you.

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A transcript of this episode is available here.