Home-coming for ‘An African Answer’

Friday, February 11, 2011

The now hugely popular documentary An African Answer came to Burnt Forest, Uasin Gishu County, on 8 February 2011 for screening to the local communities. A celebratory mood swept across the township where the film was shot.

People crowd in to watch 'An African Answer' in Burnt Forest (Photo: Alan Channer)The Daily Nation, the largest circulation newspaper in East and Central Africa, had excited the people even more by announcing the film in its Western Kenya edition. The half page article was headed ‘Reconciliation: film on poll chaos to be screened’. It went on, ‘Documentary shot in Burnt Forest, one of the hotspots of the chaos and edited in London’.

The British High Commission in Kenya made 100 DVDs of the film available for free distribution at the event..

One young man was chatting to his peers just before the screening. ‘It is the home-coming party to celebrate peace and our film,’ he said.

Area Chief Fred Killy hands out DVDs provided by the British High Commission to Burnt Forest residents (Photo: Alan Channer)Burnt Forest residents started streaming to the venue as early as 9am and many, anticipating a big turnout, took their seats in the small hall. This is the same hall of the Ampath Hospital which had been used by Imam Ashafa and Pastor James from Nigeria in reconciling the warring communities of Burnt Forest. By 11am, over 140 people had jammed the hall. A door at the back had to be opened to accommodate more people.

The local administration led by the area chief was there to welcome the audience. Youth turned up in large numbers and not everyone could get in.

The audience mixed freely and the two main communities (Kalenjin and Kikuyu) laughed and joked when references were made about them in the film. One lady was overcome by emotion and wept most of the time.

The area chief offered heartfelt thanks to Dr Alan Channer, director of the film and to Ken Wafula, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Eldoret – whose initiative it was to invite the Nigerians to Burnt Forest. He then invited people’s comments. Many spoke with passion.

The film is a masterpiece. It will speak to the future generations telling them how peace was finally found in Burnt Forest after decades of bitterness and hatred,’ said a middle-aged man.

Earlier attempts to bring the warring communities together failed, but Imam Ashafa and Pastor James succeeded. Their approach must be taught to community leaders,’ said another man who had participated in the reconciliation workshops.

You have walked with us till today. Many NGOs came, failed and left. Their approach was wrong. You came, brought us together and opened our eyes,’ said another young man in his 20s.

Sister Macrina Cheruto from the International Organization for Migration and Joseph Wainaina from Initiatives of Change offer counsel to Leah Muthoni (second left), a victim of the post-election violence, and Cecilia Kimemia, after the film screening. (Photo: Alan Channer)The Nigerians were sent to us by God. This film must be taken to schools and colleges. I can’t comprehend how Pastor James and Imam Ashafa managed to bring the two enemies to the point where they can share honestly in front of cameras. I congratulate everybody who played a part,’ said a lady in her early 30s.

Help us to become peacemakers not only for Burnt Forest but for Kenya and Africa. We need a Peace Resource Centre in Burnt Forest,’ said an elder.

Ken Wafula, currently Chairman of the NGO Council of Kenya, said that An African Answer is ‘a classic example of success.’ It is an initiative at the grass-roots by grass-roots people for the benefit of the world.

The audience was unanimous that Pastor James and Imam Ashafa must come back to give more training.

SAYARE TV (a Christian TV channel broadcast over a wide area of Rift Valley) carried a 5 minute report on the film screening during their 8pm news programme.

For more on An African Answer, including on-line purchase, click here.