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Kenyan youth shoot for peace in UN-backed football ‘reconciliation contest’

Kenyan youth shoot for peace in UN-backed football ‘reconciliation contest’

More than 2,000 youth Play for the Planet in Nairobi
More than 2,000 Kenyan youths from across Nairobi, the capital, will kick off a multi-ethnic football tournament this weekend to score goals in a United Nations-backed bid to use the power of sport to promote reconciliation after last year’s deadly inter-communal violence as well as environmental conservation.

“It is hoped that by providing an opportunity for young people from various ethnic communities to participate in team activities, the initiative will help promote social cohesion and peace,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today of the ‘Play for the Planet: Play for Peace’ competition, which was first held last year a few months after post-election conflicts rocked Kenya.

“It also provides a positive environment for interaction for young people who are one of the groups that are the most affected by hardship, violence, social tensions and other challenges in society.”

UNEP, together with the International Olympic Committee and the pharmaceutical company Bayer East Africa, is supporting the competition, which is organized by the Kenyan non-profit organization (NGO) Mavuno Michezo and will bring together youths aged 14 to 18 from across Nairobi for a series of football games and environmental activities over the next three weekends.

Sixty-four teams, eight from each constituency in Nairobi, including one female team per constituency, are taking part and the winners will be awarded trophies, medals and football kits.

“Through t-shirts and other materials, peace building and environmental messages will be conveyed to the youth as well as to the general public,” UNEP said in a news release. “The participants will also participate in tree planting and other environmental clean-up activities in their communities.”

In June 2008, following the post-election conflict, the first edition of the ‘Play for the Planet’ brought together more than 300 children and youth for a three-month series of school and community activities on peace and reconciliation that culminated on World Peace Day on 21 September.