Conflict in Northern Kenya

Conflict in Northern KenyaA focus on the internally displaced conflict victims in Northern Kenya

by Ruto Pkalya, Mohamud Adan and Isabella Masinde
Edited by Martin Karimi

Violent conflicts involving pastoralists have become widespread and increasingly severe in the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya. This study identifies and examines the factors contributing to such conflicts, and discusses issues and priorities for conflict prevention and peace building. On the basis of this examination, a number of conclusions and recommendations are proposed on ways in which the stakeholders could contribute to the concerted efforts of curbing violent conflicts involving pastoralists in Kenya.

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ITDGPractical Action Eastern Africa's work in conflict management
Conflict resolution and cross-border harmonization is an integral component of the ITDGPractical Action's aim of reducing vulnerability among poor people especially the pastoral communities in the greater horn of Africa. Through the conflict management project, ITDGPractical Action Eastern Africa is implementing peace programmes in Northern Kenya (Turkana, Marsabit, and Samburu) and works through partners/collaboration in West Pokot, Marakwet, Moyale, Mandera and Wajir Districts. Crossborder activities are implemented by ITDGPractical Action EA and partners in Southern Ethiopia (Omo region), Southern Sudan, Eastern Uganda (Karamoja cluster) and Western Somalia.

Executive Summary

Background

Violent conflicts involving pastoralists have become widespread and increasingly severe in the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya. This study identifies and examines the factors contributing to such conflicts, and discusses issues and priorities for conflict prevention and peace building. On the basis of this examination, a number of conclusions and recommendations are proposed on ways in which the stakeholders could contribute to the concerted efforts of curbing violent conflicts involving pastoralists in Kenya.

The pastoralists in the two regions under study are largely nomadic. They live primarily in arid or semi-arid areas and depend on livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and camels) for their livelihood. They rely on access to pasture and water, for the survival of their livestock. Such resources are scarce and under increasing pressure. They must be shared amongst the pastoralist?s communities.

Conflicts involving pastoralists associated with resource competition, cattle rustling and wide availability of small arms are widespread and of increasing concern. This study thus provides a useful case to examine in depth factors contributing to conflict, issues and priorities for conflict prevention.

Factors contributing to violent conflict

The patterns of conflict in the North Rift and North Eastern regions are complex. There are many factors contributing to the risk of violent conflict involving pastoralists, and these have tended to become mutually reinforcing.

Some conflicts within and between pastoralist communities, such as raiding and cattle rustling have a long history and have to some extent become an aspect of traditional pastoralist culture. However, such ?traditional? conflicts have become increasingly destructive and less manageable. The major causes of conflict among the pastoralist include but not limited to intensified cattle rustling, proliferation of illicit arms, inadequate policing and state security arrangements, diminishing role of traditional governance systems, competition over control and access to natural resources such as pasture and water, land issues, political incitements, ethnocentrism, increasing levels of poverty and idleness amongst the youth.

Impacts of violent conflict

Napogol Alinga, a conflict victim - see page 40 of the reportViolent conflicts have had very negative and severe impacts on the communities that are involved in these conflicts. The study highlighted several consequences of violent conflicts, which are negatively impacting on the communities under focus.

Loss of human life, property, displacements of large segments of the communities, disruption of socio-economic activities and livelihoods, increased hatred between communities, environmental degradation and threat to water catchments areas, increased economic hardships as a result of loss of livelihoods, high levels of starvation and malnutrition among the displaced groups and unprecedented dependency syndrome on relief food are the main negative impacts of the increasing and severe inter-ethnic armed conflicts in northern Kenya.

Main findings

A total of 164,457 people have been displaced by conflicts in pastoralists? North Frontier districts of Kenya. 70% or 105,500 of the displaced are women and children aged below 14 years. In addition to displacements, many women have also been widowed by the conflicts further increasing their vulnerabilities to poverty and human right abuses.

Turkana district has the highest number of displaced persons. The figure currently stands at 41,097 people. Most of the displaced are from Kakuma and Lokichogio divisions. Wajir comes second with a total of 32,914 against the districts' population of 270,700 people as per the 1999 census. The politically instigated and government executed Wagalla massacre of 1984 in Wajir district left over 3,000 people dead and 21,000 displaced, accounting for the bulk of displacements in the district. Many women were widowed by the massacre and are now living in abject poverty in informal shanties in Wajir town.

Cattle rustling and banditry activities in Kerio valley and in areas bordering West Pokot and Baringo districts has displaced 32,000 people accounting for 23% of the total population of Marakwet district. The conflicts became severe at the dawn of political pluralism in Kenya and have continued to destabilize the district. These statistics reveals that Marakwet district has been the hardest hit by conflicts in the region.

In West Pokot district, 30,361 people have been displaced. Most of the displaced come from areas bordering Turkana, Marakwet and Uganda (Karamojang districts). Alale division that borders Turkana district and Uganda has 11,871 displaced people. An in-depth analysis indicates that Samburu district comes second after Marakwet in terms of the percentages of the population displaced. Cattle rustling in the district has displaced 17% of the district's population or 23,707 people. However, most of the displaced are Turkana from Baragoi and Nyiro divisions. It is hard to tell the number of the displaced Samburu since most of them take refuge in Manyattas of their relatives unlike the Turkana who move to urban centres. Turkana and Samburu communities inhabit the two divisions. Marsabit district, with 4,378 displaced, has the least number of displaced people in the study area.

The study also found out that all the said districts are among the ten poorest districts in Kenya in all the development indices. School enrolment rates are far below the national average, majority of the people in the region depend on relief food and are malnourished. Mortality rate is high and so are poverty levels. Water and sanitary services are inaccessible to the majority of the pastoralists.
Rights of the displaced people have been grossly violated as the study found out that there is a strong correlation between displacements and increased rape cases, physical assaults, prostitution, growing number of street urchins and child labour. Most of the displaced were disenfranchised by the conflicts making them unable to vote during the last General election (2002).

Conflict prevention

Efforts to prevent and mitigate violent conflicts involving pastoralists in the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya need to address each of the factors contributing to conflict as outlined above. The development of effective actions to tackle each cause of conflict is difficult because these problems are rooted in the peoples? cultures. However, serious attempts to address these problems can contribute immensely to conflict resolution if they are recognized as such by the communities involved.

A good start could be made by taking measures directly aimed at conflict prevention such as developing mediation and conflict prevention capacities of the communities involved and establishing projects in support of pastoralists need to strategically invest in awareness raising (early warning for early action), training and indigenous peace building processes. Displaced groups must be rehabilitated and re-oriented into mainstream society by aiding them with alternative livelihoods e.g. promotion of eco-tourism, small-scale business enterprise, basketry and provision of social amenities such as schools, health facilities and water.

Primary responsibility for developing and implementing the programmes and measures outlined above must rest with the Kenyan government, local, national and international stakeholders. International community also has a responsibility to do what it can to assist manage the problem of insecurity, conflicts and the ensuing displacements. There are many windows and entry points to reduce the pressures generating conflict and to promote sustainable prevention and enhancement of the pastoralists' communities' resilience.

Recommendations

The study makes the following recommendations to prevent and manage conflicts in the North Rift and North Eastern Kenya:

  • Strengthening traditional conflict resolution mechanisms and linking them with formal police, court and government agencies.
  • Sensitisation and awareness creation in issues pertaining to conflict and illicit arms
  • Promotion and facilitation of inter-community dialogues, peace meetings, exposure tours and compensation schemes including trauma-healing sessions.
  • Advocacy and policy influence on the state inability to secure rights of its citizens to security, education, health services and private property amongst other things.
  • Communities? participation in policy advocacy, influence and participation in public discourse should be strengthened.
    Initiation of development projects e.g. Service projects such as schools, churches, and dispensaries.
  • Livestock improvement projects e.g. improvement of breeds
    Introduction of alternative livelihoods apart from pastoralism like irrigated agriculture, small business enterprises, establishments of industrial businesses eg. lime processing and jua kali projects (artisans).
  • Gender and age mainstreaming in all peace initiatives
  • Introducing peace education (including drama, songs and poetry) in schools and public forum
  • Strengthening and supporting media for peace programmes and campaigns
  • Provision of emergency and other conflict related exigencies relief and assistance
  • Rehabilitation of destroyed social amenities
  • Resettlement of displaced families
  • Provision of basic needs and improvement of infrastructure eg. construction of security roads.
  • Develop community-based early warning system for early action.

Structure of the report

Conflict in Northern KenyaThe report is divided into five sections. Section one covers the background to the study and section two provides the methodology adopted. Section three provides an overview of the six districts under study while section four provides an analysis of the findings of the study, presented under each of the six districts. The last section provides conclusions that are drawn from the study and provides recommendations as to the way forward.

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Further reading

PEACE Bulletin

ITDGPractical Action Eastern Africa's Peace Bulletin is a quarterly publication that shares knowledge and experiences of individuals, CSOs and other bodies working for peace. It serves to enhance networking and collaborations, in addition to shaping developmental priorities and policies of different actors in conflict prone northern Kenya.

Indigenous Democracy: Traditional Conflict Resolution Mechanisms (Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Marakwet communities)

In 2003 ITDGPractical Action EA conducted a study on traditional conflict resolution mechanisms as practiced by the Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Marakwet pastoralists and agro-pastoralists communities in Kenya. This study was funded by USAID/Kenya and East Africa Cross-Border Biodiversity Project (EACBBP). Read Abstract

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