Daily Visual 15.07.15: Kenyan Athletes Walk for Peace

Today some of Kenya’s greatest distance runners – organised and led by 2010 Commonwealth marathon gold medalist John Kelai, and scheduled to include former marathon world record holders Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich, Paul Tergat, and Tegla Loroupe; twice Olympic steeplechase champion Ezekiel Kemboi; Irene Jerotich, Alex Kipchirchir, Douglas Wakiihuri, and Andrew Lesuuda; and as an exception to the rule, the Ugandan 2012 Olympic marathon winner Stephen Kiprotich, who was born near the Uganda-Kenya border – embarked on an 836-kilometre walk, aiming to bring attention to growing ethnic violence in the country’s northern regions.

Dubbed the ‘Walk for Peace’, it will continue over the course of the next twenty-two days, across Kenya’s Rift Valley. Beginning in Lodwar, the capital of Turkana County – which borders Uganda to the west, and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north and northeast – the walkers will journey south for approximately 40 kilometres each day, eventually reaching the shores of Lake Bogoria on 6 August.

Kenya’s Rift Valley has seen hundreds of people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced over the past eighteen months. Cattle rustling is often the primary cause; and as acts of violence have become more frequent, there has also been a proliferation in the use of automatic weapons.

Kelai has first-hand experience of the brutality which can result: three of his uncles were killed in cattle raids. His endeavour is being coordinated by the Aegis Trust. Together they are aiming to raise $250,000 via Indiegogo, with the proceeds going towards a peace-building programme that plans to directly engage 10,000 youngsters. The project aims to build networks between vulnerable youth, women, and religious leaders who retain a strong influence at the community level.

There will also be an emphasis on forging connections between Kenya and other African countries: particularly Rwanda, which has much experience managing similar projects. As the Walk for Peace progresses, the hope is that fans and supporters alike join in with the action, arranging their own fundraising meets and partaking in special events planned across the route.

As celebrated athletes join the walk, a torch will be passed among participants. Haile Gebrselassie – the iconic Ethiopian long-distance runner who retired earlier this year, after a career which saw him set a staggering twenty-seven world records, win two Olympic gold medals, and four World Championship golds alongside a host of major marathon victories – is expected to join the walk during its latter stages. In a statement last week, Gebrselassie said, ‘When people are being killed and driven from their homes, it is a tragedy for all of us’.

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