Kenya High Commission in London receives Torch for Peace

World record-breaking ultra runners Rob Young (Marathon Man UK) and Adam ‘Tango’ Holland yesterday completed their 25-day, 2200-mile torch relay across the UK for the Aegis Trust’s Champions Walk for Peace by presenting the torch to Ambassador Jackline Yonga, Deputy Head of Mission at Kenya’s High Commission in London.

Launched by some of the World’s top runners earlier this year to establish a peace school with the Aegis Trust in Kenya’s troubled North Rift Valley, the Walk for Peace (www.walkforpeace.co.ke) offers people everywhere an avenue to help young people who are at risk of being drawn into rising ethnic violence in the region, where hundreds of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes this year.

Describing Rob and Adam’s achievement as ‘unbelievable’, Ambassador Yonga praised the Champions Walk for Peace and urged people to get behind it.

“Create peace to enable development”

“For Aegis as sponsors and supporters of this important initiative, I thank you,” the Ambassador said. “The Champions Walk for Peace is an initiative that is very good for Kenya because this complements the Government’s efforts to ensure peaceable coexistence of diverse Kenyan communities.

“It is my hope and belief that this initiative will achieve its objective in inspiring and engaging young people from the divided communities in Kenya and help break these cycles of violence which have derailed economic growth and development in the affected areas.

“Kenya recognises that peace and stability are necessary preconditions for development and prosperity…. Without the foundation of peace, we will never get there…. We first of all must put our house in order by creating peace to create an enabling environment for economic development to take place.

“Kenya has made tremendous achievements despite the few challenges it faces. We believe therefore that efforts like Champions for Walk for Peace and other similar endeavours, coupled with the strategies being employed by the Kenyan Government, will steer Kenya into the ranks of the top emerging market destinations for investment.”

“Bringing people together”

“It’s a real honour to be here and this means a lot to us, not only to do something for Kenya, but for the Rift Valley,” commented Rob Young. “It’s about bringing people and communities together and that’s what we’re about as runners. It’s something that we’re very proud to be part of, and that we are going to continue to be involved in. Having had a very tough upbringing, being part of something which is going to help other children is very important to me.”

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to carry this torch”, said Adam Holland. “Through this we’ve been able to give back, and to give people the opportunity to realise that they can make a difference.”

Aegis CEO Dr James Smith thanked the Ambassador, and the athletes for their endeavour. “People often talk so much about the need for African solutions to African problems, and clearly these are solutions that are owned by the people in Kenya,” he said. “Rob and Adam’s response, when the champions were walking through the North Rift Valley, was to say, “we need to just do our part”. This was truly an epic journey that you’ve taken, and I hope this can be passed on to many more people so that we can all together contribute to building peace.”

The Torch for Peace will now continue its journey in the USA – where American athletes Pat Sweeney and ‘Barefoot’ Alex Ramsey are set to run with it another 900 miles from the Chicago Marathon (11 October) to the New York Marathon (1 November).

The distances involved are dizzying, but the purpose is simple – to encourage running fans, students at the schools they’ve been visiting and the wider public to become literally ‘one in a thousand’ – to donate or sign up at www.walkforpeace.co.ke/1000 to fundraise £150 (or $250) each in order to change the future for young people in Kenya whose lives are in the balance.

With $250,000, the Aegis Trust – which has established a successful peace education programme in Rwanda – will be able to launch a peace school in Kenya’s North Rift Valley, where many local people and officials are not only eager for change, but also inspired by what the athletes have begun.

Champion athletes to walk for peace through Kenya’s North Rift Valley

Kenya’s North Rift Valley is being torn apart by growing armed violence between different ethnic groups, often centred around cattle rustling. In the past 18 months alone, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands displaced. Now a group of star Kenyan athletes – some of the World’s biggest names in distance running – are set to lead a ‘Champions Walk for Peace’, carrying a torch for humanity over 522 miles in 22 days through the heart of the Rift Valley from Lodwar, Turkana to the shores of Lake Bogoria, starting 15 July and finishing 6 August 2015.

The champions include Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Paul Tergat, Tegla Loroupe, Ezekiel Kemboi, John Kelai, Irine Jerotich, Andrew Lesuuda, Alex Kipchirchir, Stephen Kiprotich and Douglas Wakiihuri.

“Supported by the Aegis Trust, which has shown how peace can be built in Rwanda, we are going to inspire and engage the young people from the divided communities and help to break the cycles of violence,” says organizer and Commonwealth Gold Medallist John Kelai in this short video promoting the initiative.

For John, from Turkana County, it’s personal. Three of his uncles were shot dead by Pokot cattle rustlers. Now former Pokot cattle rustler Julius Arile is one of the athletes who will be taking part. “Running has given us a platform to create change,” says Arile. “Completing the Walk for Peace is just the start of the challenge – and we are inviting you to come with us.”

Using the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, the champions are aiming to raise at least $250,000 in sponsorship from fans and the public – in Kenya and internationally – to kickstart a peace-building programme that will engage at least 10,000 young people at risk of being drawn into the ethnic violence, saving lives and preventing suffering in the Rift Valley.

Offering some great incentives for sponsors, the champions are also encouraging people everywhere to get out and do their own sponsored walk or run for the cause using platforms like JustGiving. Meanwhile, special events in key locations they pass through – and community engagement along their route – will be laying the groundwork for the subsequent peacebuilding programme to hit the ground running.

Led by the Kenyan athletes and coordinated by the Aegis Trust in collaboration with RECSA (the Regional Centre on Small Arms) and the United Religions Initiative along with local government and civic leaders both in Nairobi and in the Rift Valley, the ‘Champions Walk for Peace’ will route through seven counties: Turkana, West Pokot, Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and Samburu. Sponsors and fans will be able to keep track of the athletes’ progress via Twitter, Facebook and this official website.

“This walk is to break the hatred and revenge so that the warring communities in the seven counties will live in peace, share resources and be one voice,” says Professor Lokapel Elim, the Chairman of the Steering Committee, who also hails from Turkana County. As Principal of Mt Kenya University’s Kigali Campus, he witnessed the effectiveness of Aegis’ work with young people in Rwanda and now wants to see that replicated at home. “The experience of forgiveness, the experience of speaking out against hatred, the impact that Aegis has, actually will change the thinking of our people,” he says.