Star athletes walk 800km to halt violence in Kenya

Star athletes walk 800km to halt violence in Kenya
A number of famous Kenyan distance runners are to take part in a 22-day ‘walk for peace,’ across the north of the country. The 836 km event is aimed at stopping ethnic violence in the area and hopes to raise $250,000 to support peace initiatives.

The walk is being organized by John Kelai, who was a decorated marathon runner and won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010. He decided to take action after three of his uncles were killed in a cattle-rustling raid.

This practice has become more widespread in recent years as guns have become easier to obtain and rival ethnic groups look to steal livestock and settle scores. Double Olympic 3,000m Steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi, along with Paul Tergat and Tegla Loroupe have also confirmed they will be taking part in the event.

“We are going to inspire and engage the young people from the divided communities and help to break the cycles of violence,” said Kelai, in a video posted on YouTube.

Screenshot from YouTube video by Aegis Trust

Using the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the athletes hope to raise $250,000 from their fans and members of the public. They want to use this money to introduce a peace-building program, which will engage at least 10,000 young people who are at risk of being drawn into ethnic violence in the region. It is also hoped the funds raised will help to raise lives and prevent suffering in Kenya’s Rift Valley.

“Currently there is very bad violence between Pokot and Turkana. Before I became a runner, I was a cattle rustler. Many of my friends were killed and this made me think a lot about my future. I knew I would die soon and this prompted me to stop cattle rustling and I became an athlete,” said marathon runner Julius Arile.

Screenshot from YouTube video by Aegis Trust

More than 210,000 people were displaced in Kenya's northeastern counties of Mandera and Wajir in 2014, many more than in previous years, according to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

The situation is being made worse to the lack of resources in the area, while there are not enough security forces in the region to maintain law and order.

The ‘walk for peace’ will start in the northern town of Lodwar. The athletes will then head south towards Lake Bogoria, which is famous for its flamingoes. The event will get underway on July 15.

Other athletes taking part include Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Irine Jerotich, Andrew Lesuuda, Alex Kipchirchir, Douglas Wakiihuri and Stephen Kiprotich, who is the reigning Olympic and World 10,000-meter champion.