Each morning is the same for Amani Weso a 23-year-old father of one living in Mtongwe, Likoni SubCounty. He goes to the mosque at 5:20 am and by 5:45 am-together with his fellow fishermen, they assemble their boats by the ocean ready to catch some fish. He never breaks the morning routine because fishing is his main source of income. However, this was not always the case. Amani’s journey to be a fisherman has been a tough one. He has battled with the law and was a constant security threat to those who knew him.
“People feared me. All I was involved with before getting into fishing was crime-stealing from people by threatening them with a panga. Even if I never used to harm them, the panga would make them believe that I wanted to kill them. That way, they would easily handover their money, phone or anything valuable they were carrying. But I am a changed man now.” Crime by the youth in Mtongwe and other parts of Mombasa County has been one of the major challenges for both the police and community. Young people from poor backgrounds, or those with little to no education end up idling in their ‘mtaa’ making them vulnerable to engage in illegal activities. This is why Kenya Red Cross partnered with European Union with the main aim of empowering the youth and introducing initiatives that would eventually shift their lifestyles from illegal activities and be stand up human beings in the society.
The Conflict Prevention Peace and Economic Opportunities for Youth in Kenya (CPEYK) project implemented by the KRCS with funding from EU continuously engages the youth through trainings and follow ups on businesses invested in by both organisations to ensure they can easily fend for themselves and their families. 26-year-old Abubakar Omar, who like Amani had a broken past, got wind CPEYK program while playing football in his home place Mtopanga, Kisauni County. “We were playing football with some friends and saw how rival gangs had changed their ways and were forming teams together. This got us curious on how they were unified because the change was visible. They then informed us about Kenya Red Cross and the trainings they were conducting for the youth. We signed up and got to learn information on how to write proposals and business plans, as well as identifying viable business ventures that would generate income. That’s when we came up with the idea of a poultry business.”
The poultry business, chaired by Abubakar, has been doing well with butcheries being their main clientele. To keep themselves accountable to each other, Abubakar’s group holds weekly barazas to analyse and project the week’s earnings plus identifying creative ways to make their business grow. Amani and Abubakar’s stories are just but examples of how the Conflict Prevention, Peace and Economic Opportunities for the Youth in Kenya (CPEYK) program is benefitting young people in Mombasa County. Fauz Mohammed, 38-year-old and father of one is too a beneficiary of the program and together with his group, has grown the business which has given birth to more ventures such as selling water and setting up another gas shop in their area-Mwembe Kuku, Mvita County.
Mwembe Kuku which was famously known for its notoriety in selling drugs and petty theft activities hubs a lot of youth who currently have reformed thanks to those who went through the CPEYK program and have now set pace for change. Fauz notes that it takes one group of young people to show that there are other means to earn a living without getting oneself killed by police or by mob justice. In their group dubbed as Mwembe Kuku Fire Youth Group, the 15 young men have taken it upon themselves to empower other young people by aggressively reinventing themselves and their businesses. “We have taken the initiative to employ other young people who are idling around because with no income they can easily fall back into our old ways and we don’t want that. This area was not as safe as you see it now, and we want people to feel welcomed because it is the only way we can attract customers.
Right now, our intention is to make money and look for more investors who can help us get a motorbike to deliver the gas cylinders and hopefully in the future open an Mpesa place and a music sound business. This way we can hire more young men like us.” Building community resilience as well as diminishing a breeding ground for conflict tailored activities has continuously been the agenda for the CPEYK program. Not only is it in Mombasa County but also across eight regions in the country. Addressing the root causes of conflict has been one of the avenues where CPEYK has focused on. The fight to eradicate conflict and change behaviour of the youth can only be won by engaging the youth.