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Sport for development and peace in communities: A case study of the ‘sport for peace and social transformation programme’ in Uasin Gishu, Kenya

This study examined the role of Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) in peacebuilding, focussing particularly on the case of the Kenya Community Sports Foundation’s (KESOFO) Sport for Peace and Social Transformation (SPST) programme in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya. It was meant to provide an in-depth understanding of the role generally played by community NGO programmes in fostering peace in communities through variations of the SDP framework. Additionally, the study’s purpose was to identify lessons of experience from the programme and give recommendations on how the programme can be improved in delivering its stated goal of fostering peace and development in conflict prone communities. The study made use of Johan Galtung’s 3Rs Conflict transformation theory, linking it with the Sports for Development and Peace (SDP) framework, with a critical analysis being proffered all in the quest to inform conceptualisation of this particular study. It made use of the philosophical assumption of interpretivism through relativist ontology and qualitative research methodology anchored on a descriptive approach. Among the key findings from the study is the awareness of the challenges caused by the toxic influence of partisan and ethnical politics that had for long been sources of conflict in the community under study. Unfortunately, these drivers of conflict tended to recur with electoral cycles. The value of the SPST programme was underscored as an important intervention that promoted peace and development using sport as a medium. Community members affirmed the role that sport played as a convener and enabler of peacebuilding efforts, hence the high acclaim for the SDP initiative. This was evident especially among young people who would often become the nucleus of conflict during times of instability. The study, however, noted the importance of giving consideration to the type of sport and its appropriateness in SDP programmes in given contexts as some sports, in fact, encouraged aggression and could worsen conflict in already volatile conflict-prone communities. While acknowledging the efficacy of competitive sports, it also emerged in the study that informalizing the sports themselves still proffered an opportunity for participants to gain a sense of achievement yet without necessarily having to ‘beat’ or overcome a team of opponents. This was critical particularly in highly volatile situations when contestation in sport could spark violent confrontation among participants. The study, however, further noted weaknesses in SDP programmes by virtue of not having a robust and systematic monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework for the SDP intervention under study, with a view from other scholars that this may, in fact, be a pervasive challenge across many similar programmes. There was a sense that more objectively verifiable indicators could have been used to substantiate causal linkage between the intervention and restoration of peaceful co-existence in the aftermath of political upheavals. The study also pointed towards the lack of full participation and, therefore, buy-in by central government. None of the key informants spoke of a formal structure at policy and legislative level relating to government’s commitment and undertaking to support SDP programmes. Without such institutional support, particularly from government, effectiveness and sustainability of SDP initiatives was seen to be hampered. The study again flagged shortcomings in the limited number of indigenous games. Such games have linkages with indigenous knowledge systems, knowledge and institutional memory transfer related to conflict resolution from the elderly to younger persons. These, in turn, were seen as vital for building sustainable peace in communities. The study also made recommendations for increased support from NGOs and private sector towards SDP programmes, the need for further research in use of action learning methodologies to improve systematic progress and impact tracking in SDP programmes among others.

Full Name
Dr Duane Danny-Coe Booysen