GSN launched its first impact report “Growing Connection, Resiliency and Agency: The impact of community-led trauma-informed peacebuilding in response to violent extremism in Kenya” at the second annual Paris Peace Forum (12 November 2019).

“From revenge to friendship”

Revenge; I fell asleep thinking of revenge, I dreamt of revenge, I woke up thinking of revenge, I breathed revenge, I walked revenge, I talked revenge. I had vowed to get my revenge for all the suffering that I had incurred in the hands of the police.
 I had often wondered what drove one to want to hurt their fellow human beings, specifically, what drew one to become a terrorist, taking the lives of others. It seemed absolutely absurd to me that one would prescribe to crime as a way of life or that one would intentionally seek to harm another. I would soon understand the depravity that drove some human beings to turn to terror.
It all started when I was profiled as a member of the al-shabaab all because I had a beard and I looked like a Somali. I was arrested and tortured by the police many times. The first instance was in 2008 on my way to Mombasa. I was interrogated and tortured for a week. I was only released after my family presented various documents including all my school certificates, my national ID card and my passport. One document should have sufficed but my family had to bring everything they had to prove my citizenship. This incident was the beginning of enmity between the police and me.
I had heard of people being profiled but I never imagined that this would be my story too – that the country I was born into, the country I had been proud to call my own, the country I could have given my life for, saw me as an outsider who needed to prove his belonging, a stranger who needed to convince the authorities that this was his country too. I was arrested three more times, in 2010 and 2013,both times for allegedly being an al-shabaab member. On both occasions, I was held in custody for three days where I was questioned over and over and tortured. I would later be released, and my arrest explained as a case of mistaken identity. My fourth arrest happened when Lamu was invaded by Al-shabaab in Mpeketoni, Lamu East. I was arrested for allegedly hosting Al-shabaab fighters and storing their weapons. Twenty officers raided my home and when nothing was found, it was again dismissed as a case of mistaken identity.
I was livid at my mistreatment. I kept reliving the humiliation and indignity that I had suffered at the hands of the policemen. Revenge was all I thought about.
All that changed when I attended a Kumekucha leadership training organized by the Green String Network. The training was transformative for me. Learning about trauma and how to deal with it was a game changer. I now understood what had driven me to the thoughts of revenge that I had entertained. Better yet, I found healing from the trauma I had suffered, and I was finally able to let go of the weight that I had been dragging around for years. I also got the opportunity to train other young men who like me, who had suffered traumatic events and were on the path to radicalization.
As testament to the change in me, I was accorded the opportunity to train police officers. Me, a former avowed enemy of the police, a victim of police profiling, being asked to train them on Wellbeing and Resilience – it sounded like a joke, but it was true. I got to see the police officers from a different perspective. I got to see them as human beings like me who were also victims of a different kind of trauma and who needed healing just like I did. I made so many friends with members of the police service who I now frequently invite to my home all thanks to Kumekucha!


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