Sport brings people together, irrespective of language and creed, noted Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto at the 12th edition of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Race in Kapenguria on Saturday (8).
“Every time you talk about sports, remember to talk about peace,” said Ruto, adding that events such as these provide a perfect opportunity to reflect and talk about peace and development.
Former marathon world record-holder Tegla Loroupe, the founder and president of the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF), led thousands of runners, both local and elite, on a day that was abuzz with activities.
The peace race targets mainly the youth and aims to foster friendship networks among the warring communities on the Kenyan-Ugandan border.
The socio-political impact is such that the race has been endorsed by the IAAF’s landmark Athletics for a Better World programme which promotes projects across the globe where athletics is used as a tool for social good.
High-profile dignitaries from Uganda and Kenya have also supported and attended the race since the inaugural edition 11 years ago. The race has provided a much-needed platform to reflect and talk about peace and development, while some guests even ran alongside each other in the dignitaries’ 2km road race in a mark of improved diplomatic relations.
The focal point is the warriors’ 10km road race where rivalling factions put aside their differences and unite in the spirit of sport. Ruto and the TLPF view sport as a means to build mutual trust and understanding among people.
From a non-sporting standpoint, the event acted as a cross-cultural learning opportunity to appreciate and learn more about other cultures. Communities were shown cultural art and rituals, involving the slaughtering of a bull to grilling and then to serving it.
And while there’s work to be done, there is still palpable evidence of a soothing of relations since the TLPF set up a series of Peace Races across Kenya.
One particular group of warriors from Kainuk in South Turkana district, who took part in the Moroto Peace Race, have remained staunch advocates of peace, helping to improve community relations between the Pokot and Turkana along Turkwel, Amolem and Kasei areas.
This is the foremost long-term intention of the TLPF. The organisation hopes to help these warriors turn their backs on violence and constructively participate in the transformation of these communities.
Loroupe expressed her appreciation for sponsors for their financial support for the event. She also thanked the communities in the Karamojang cluster for embracing her efforts in finding a sustainable solution for peace and co-existence. The attendance of the leaders from these communities and the national government confirmed the goodwill for the communities and shows their support for the peace initiative.
Loroupe continued her appeal to the warring communities to lay down their arms and focus on development and education issues.
As people left Kapenguria on Sunday, the manner in which they amicably interacted gave hope to there will soon be a calm, united and developed society.
TLPF and Steven Mills for the IAAF