There are numerous examples of ways in which the business sector has been and continues to be involved in activities that lead to mass atrocity crimes. These include instances such as when business cooperates with abusive state security services to violently suppress dissent, telecommunication companies allow dissemination of hate messages on their platforms, and firms deal with conflict minerals. However, the reverse – in which businesses (especially business associations and other formal or informal business collectives) are actively engaged in steps towards the prevention, cessation and recovery from atrocities – is not as well known. This chapter provides a concrete example of how business can be gainfully involved in activities that mitigate the effects of atrocities. The chapter is based on Kenya’s private sector activities following the 2008 post-election violence on a scale unprecedented in the history of this East African nation. The chapter describes interventions by the private sector in the resolution of violence, including motivations behind the participation and lessons learned from the involvement – much of which has not previously been documented.
The success of Kenya’s private sector involvement in atrocity prevention, cessation and recovery was mainly achieved through the initiatives of the umbrella business body, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA). The four principal reasons why this umbrella organization was so impactful are:
KEPSA was viewed as an organization with high integrity and transparency – a rare and much-admired trait in a country grappling with high corruption levels.
KEPSA’s advocacy platform is non-partisan and non-confrontational. This approach created a strong bond of trust with all its stakeholders.
Because notable political actors had business interests, they shared the same concerns as KEPSA. The ensuing participation of key political actors in KEPSA’s deliberations permitted a commonality of messaging, particularly in media campaigns pursuing peaceful outcomes.
Private sector contribution to conflict prevention is considerably enhanced when the umbrella body representing business interests works in a coordinated manner with other spheres of society.
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