Dekha Ibrahim Abdi, a 40-year-old Kenyan from the Muslim Somali community, is a consultant, practitioner and trainer in peace building and conflict management. She started her peace work about 13 years ago when yet another conflict broke out in her home town of Wajir, in north-eastern Kenya. At the beginning the quest was to find sustainable peace. Today Dekha Abdi looks back on established peace-finding structures and networks. She is a founding member of the regional Coalition of Peace in Africa (Copa) and lead trainer of Responding to Conflict (RTC) in conflict transformation.
Dekha Abdi’s peace work began in 1993. A statement by her mother inspired her. “Daughter, when you were a child, I hid with you under the bed. Am I supposed to hide now with your daughter under the same bed? When will all this finally stop?” She was referring to the conflicts between different Somali communities in Wajir District and cross-border conflicts in north-eastern Kenya. The news headlines then were concerned with the large numbers of refugees entering Kenya from Somalia. With other men and women Dekha Abdi discussed how to realize peace and harmony. As more people got involved, the Wajir Peace and Development Committee was formed. The concept of peace and reconciliation was planted in people’s minds. The youth also demanded to participate: “We want to be involved. We are today’s leaders, not tomorrow’s!” “To combine the wisdom of elders and the energy of the youth is one of our approaches for sustaining peace,” Dekha Abdi explains the philosophy of the regional Copa. "The organization wants to raise the profile of peace, using the approach of our African culture and wisdom - solving conflicts through consensus, not violence,” says Abdi. Despite the fact that women in Somali communities do not traditionally play a leadership role in the society, Abdi has gained the respect and acknowledgement of the elders for her work in peace building. She currently works part-time as a policy and learning advisor for Copa where she links practical peace work at community level and engagement with policy makers at national and regional level. She is a consultant for various organizations. Her unique personality wins her unusual allies: “It is an honor to have a military leader call and ask me what to do in a particular conflict situation,” she says.
Coalition for Peace in Africa (Copa) Responding to Conflict (RTC)