Oxfam is shocked at the untimely passing of peacemaker and activist Dekha Ibrahim Abdi in a car accident in Kenya. We have lost a powerful ally in the fight against poverty and injustice. Dekha grew up in Wajir, in northeastern Kenya, and was a friend and partner of Oxfam there for much of her life.
Conflict was, and is, common in that area. Water and grazing land for livestock are scarce valuable resources, and competition for them can be fierce and deadly. In 1992, Dekha and others founded the Wajir Peace Committee, a grassroots peace initiative composed of representatives of clans, government security organs, parliamentarians, civil servants, Muslim and Christian religious leaders, and NGOs. This initiative was extremely successful in curbing the level of violence, and has been replicated all over the drylands of northern Kenya. It is now being introduced in other parts of the country.
Dekha also played a key role in the peace initiatives during the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2008. Globally she is recognised for her efforts in peace work and conflict resolution in many of the world’s most divided countries. She was the first African, and only the second woman, to win the 2009 Hesse Peace Prize. Dekha also won the 2007 Right Livelihood Award also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize.
Despite the global recognition and accolades, Dekha remained humble and committed. She was a woman who in her quiet ways could make change happen for a better world. The world will be a poorer place without her, and she will be deeply missed by all of us.