The case studies shared here aim to recover and disseminate widely our legacy of nonviolence. Like the African proverb 'Until the lions tell their tale, the story of the hunt will glorify the hunters', most rendering of history is the saga of kings and conquests won through violence and domination. Ordinary people are left out, rebels and rebellions are omitted and nonviolent struggles, whether successful or merely inspiring also go untold. The stories shared here aim to recover that bit of noviolent history and inspire through the telling of contemporary examples and set new standards for behaviour.
Click on the map to read inspiring stories of noviolence in action. And keep checking back to this space as we add more.
'The continuity of life, the call for making things better for the next generation blots out all hesitation. We have to be part of something larger than ourselves, because our dreams are often bigger than our lifetimes.'
-- Rosalie Bertell
Read the latest addition below.
It's 1989, the peak of Daniel Arup Moi's autocratic single-party control of Kenya, a time when any form of opposition against Moi's leadership was a treasonable offence punishable by death. A lone woman spoke out against him.
Wangari Maathai had spent many years establishing the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which created an extensive rural network to stem the alarming rate of de-forestation while improving the lives of rural women by paying them to plant and tend trees. Already she was unpopular with powerful people who grabbed large chunks of land and awarded them to sycophants.
But now, Moi’s party, KANU, announced a major development on Uhuru Park in Nairobi, the country's largest public park. A 60-storey skyscraper was planned, together with a massive golden statue of Moi.
For the next three years Wangari Maathai led public protests to the park, organised vigils, sit-ins, marches, bombarded the project funders and developers with letters, endured death threats and repeatedly landed in jail. Moi called Maathai “that mad woman,” and went on to remind the her of her place: “According to African traditions, women should respect their men. She has crossed the line.” Maathai stood her ground and Moi finally caved in under international pressure. Uhuru Park has remained one of the most beautiful on the continent.
The Uhuru park campaign was an eye-opener and Kenyan political activists realised it was possible to oppose bad leadership and began a quest for a multi-party democracy.
For more on the Green Belt Movement and Wangair Maathai, click here .
Mama Zepreta Atamba, a peasant woman, lived with her four children and several grandchildren on a small plot of land in Malava, in western Kenya. The land was their only home and source of livelihood and had been given by her family on her marriage. Her husband, who had deserted the family 20 years earlier, had struck a deal with a senior government officer to sell the land. There had been no consultation, she was offered no compensation and the deal was illegal.
Mama Zepreta was visited by the buyer telling her to vacate the land with immediate effect. She refused and reported the matter to the local administration, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. Everyone she turned to was unwilling to support her, saying that the case involved ‘a BIG man' and that they would lose their jobs or be threatened in other ways if they helped her. She turned to friends and neighbours in her community, but they did not know what to do.
Three trained Turning the Tide (TTT) resource people in Malava heard of the case and quickly agreed to help. They pushed the campaign step by step, calling on the help of a local human rights group and a legal aid group and together they managed to get a court injunction allowing Mama Zepreta to go back to her land.
But they had invited trouble; they were offered bribes which they refused, received threats, which meant they could not sleep in their own homes, and Mama Zepreta's house was demolished. But they persisted. The community donated materials to rebuild Mama Zepreta’s house and, carrying the court order, they came together to reclaim the land. Midway through the construction the police arrived, brandishing guns and attacking with tear gas. The villagers retreated but did not leave – and the TTT resource people spent long hours negotiating with the police and keeping youth from the village calm so that things did not escalate. Eventually the police gave up and Mama Zepreta and her family returned to their land.
Still the struggle continued and, after tireless efforts, justice was finally delivered, when the court ruled against the powerful buyer and ordered that the innocent peasant woman be resettled in her home. The entire community escorted Mama Zepreta back to her home, where everyone gathered to celebrate the victory.
A Turning the Tide member attributed the success to three things: skills, unity and determination. "What people need" he said, "is skills on how to do it effectively".
Peace Camps first came about in the 1920s as 24-hour protests outside of military bases by members of the peace movement. They became topical in the 1980s due to the worldwide publicity generated by the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp.
Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was established to protest against US nuclear weapons being stored at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England. A Welsh group called 'Women for Life on Earth" started the camp in September 1981. Tens of thousands of people came together in April 1983 to form a human chain around the 23km base. 200 members of the women's peace camp scaled the fence to the base in a stronger demonstration of protest.
The last nuclear missiles left the camp in 1991 but the camp remained in place until 2000, finally disbanding when protestors won the right to house a memorial on the site.