Stabua Khatija Yusuf and Tim Hartley

Stabua Khatija Yusuf and Tim Hartley

Stabua Khatija Yusuf and Tim Hartley

In the first of two blogs, Tim Hartley writes about his week working with football coaches and community leaders from across Kenya and how the Active Citizens programme is helping to rebuild lives damaged by the inter-community and political violence of the past few years.

Never mind the sectarian rivalry of Celtic versus Rangers or the sporting enmity across the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds, at election time in Kenya, supporting the wrong football team can cost you your life.

Stabua Khatija Yusuf lives in Nairobi’s slum district. The Kibera slum is home to some 200,000 men, women and children. No one is quite sure how many. From the distance it forms a patchwork of reddish-brown shacks, all topped with rusting corrugated iron roofs. They say that if you’re not from Kibera then don’t go in there without a local by your side, as you will never find your way out of the maze of connecting streets.

Stabua combines her university studies with coaching Anyany Sisters women’s football team. Many of the girls who play for Anyany are victims of rape and domestic sexual abuse. Some of the rapes, according to Stabua, were politically motivated and carried out during the inter-community violence that claimed hundreds of lives following Kenya’s disputed presidential election in 2007.

Stabua doesn’t actually like football, but she started the girls’ team during the school holidays to try to help the rape victims, some of whom are as young as 12, regain some self respect. ‘Of course the facilities are poor,’ she says, ‘we don’t even have a full kit half the time, but the girls love playing and it really has made a difference to them.’

Unlike the other people I talked to in Kenya she needed some encouragement to speak to me. She said very little about herself. Stabua is 21. I didn’t press her.

Stabua’s was just one of many stories I heard during a week working with football coaches and community leaders from across Kenya. Our goal was to help build social cohesion and try to prevent inter-community and political violence, in the run up to next year’s presidential election. Like everyone else in Kenya, Stabua and the Anyany Sisters are the victims of their own country’s recent history.

In December 2007 President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election. Kibaki’s opponent, Raila Odinga, cried foul, saying that the election was rigged.

Opposition supporters went on the rampage across the country, most notably in Odinga’s homeland of Nyanza Province, and the slums of Nairobi. Police shot a number of demonstrators and targeted ethnic violence escalated. It peaked with the killing of 30 unarmed civilians in a church on New Year’s Day.

With the country on the verge of civil war the two candidates formed a coalition government and vowed to do everything in their power to maintain peace.

Tim Hartley is Chair of the Cardiff City Supporters Trust and led the British Council ‘Football for All’ project in Kenya.

Find out more about the Active Citizens programme

Active Citizens: Football for peace part 2 will be published shortly