30 Years of Cross-Border Peace
|ITDGPractical Action-EA Peace Bulletin - December 2003|
30 Years of Cross-Border Peace
Turkana and Karamojong communities commemorate 30 years of peaceful relations and military alliance
Women clad in Turkana and Matheniko traditional regalia sang their hearts out in praise of the commemoration of 30 years of peace between the two communities in a colourful traditional ceremony held to renew the peace pact.
According to available records, the event, referred to as ‘burying of the hatchet’ was last undertaken on 18th December 1973 at Lokiriama. Oral and living testimonies allude that in 1973, elders from the two communities buried instruments of conflict (bows, arrows, spears), honey, milk and traditional brew in a pit that has now been transformed into a historical monument in Turkana district.
On 14th November 2003, elders from Turkana and Matheniko (a Karamojang sub-tribe), with facilitation from civil society organizations, religious groups and government renewed their peace vows by revisiting the monument, and burying a consignment of weapons reminiscent of the 1973 peace pact. The commemoration was preceded by four days intense consultations between elders of the two communities, neighbouring communities and newly initiated elders. Their consultations centred on how the peace pact, known as ‘akisil’’ by the local people could be expanded to include other neighbouring communities in the whole of Karamojong cluster.
The commemoration was used as a platform for passing on the peace- making mantle and knowledge to the younger generation. During the thirty years, the founders of the peace pact have passed on with age and the pact has lost prominence thus calling for renewal and revitalization. Prior to and on the material day, surviving elders shared their peace pact experiences with the leaders, youth and other participants.
In a speech read on his behalf by Assistant Minister for Water Development, John Munyes, the Minister for National security, Dr Chris Murungaru said that cross- border interactions between Matheniko and Turkana have enabled the two communities access pasture, water resources and to carry on trading activities. The minister paid tribute to the elders who initiated the peace pact, which has gone a long way to demonstrate that neighbouring communities can foster peaceful coexistence.
"As our elders who initiated this particular peace accord pass away with their noble virtues of peaceful co-existence, we need to inculcate among our youth the same virtues by revitalizing the commitment to harmony, peace, dignity and sanctity of human life", the minister said.
Mr Peter Lokeris, the Minister in the Office of Prime Minister in Charge of Karamoja Affairs, Uganda, noted with appreciation that "this event comes at a time when the East African Cooperation protocols have been ratified by the three Heads of State. With enhanced peace initiatives such as this one, the citizens of the three countries should engage in mutually beneficial activities such as commerce, education, natural resource sharing and conservation, which will result into greater prosperity of the region". His words were echoed by his counterpart in the Office of the President in Charge of Economic Monitoring, Obwok Ojok, a Special Presidential Assistant in charge of Disarmament and Development, Michael Lokawa, and Members of Parliament representing Matheniko, Pian and Kotido counties.
The Ugandan and Kenyan lawmakers and administrators noted that the existence of rebel groups and factions in the region such as the Lords Resistance Army in northern Uganda and the Sudanese conflict spillover effects have contributed to instability and proliferation of illicit arms in Karamojang cluster and other parts of East Africa. This has translated to heightened insecurity and armed robberies in the region.
Ekwe Ethuro, MP Turkana Central, informed the participants that the Turkana MPs have decided to contribute each Ksh. 1 million from their respective constituency development fund towards rehabilitation of Lodwar- Moroto road so as to enhance transport and communication between the two countries. His Turkana South counterpart, Francis Ewaton, challenged other neighbouring communities to emulate the Turkana Matheniko peace pact.
The Turkana District Commissioner, Njenga Miiri, reminded the commemorators not to generalize the whole community as belligerent bandits just because one individual from that community committed a robbery or theft.
Turkana, Karamojong, Toposa (Southern Sudan) and Dongiro (Southern Ethiopia) communities attended the commemoration. Conspicuously absent were the Pokot (Kenya and Uganda) and Merille of Ethiopia. They were accused of perennially skipping important peace meetings and accords in the cluster. It is envisaged that the communities who witnessed the peace commemoration will pick up the cue and initiate similar peace processes amongst themselves.
ITDGPractical Action-EA organized the event on behalf of the UNDP/GEF East Africa Cross-Border Biodiversity Conservation Project with additional funding from USAID and CORDAID. The Kenya Government, SNV-Kenya, VSF- Belgium, CAPE Unit of AU-IBAR, OXFAM-GB and CCF greatly supported this initiative.
|This article also appears in the KIT newsletter (December 2003)|
Thousands of Moroto residents were taken by surprise when visiting Turkana and Matheniko women staged a hilarious peace dance at the Moroto Stadium on 11th - 12th October 2003. Pomp, colour and ululation gutted the stadium when Matheniko men joined the women in a Karamojong cultural dance that was used to officially welcome the Turkana visitors.
The dancers sang their hearts out in praise of the peaceful relations and military alliance that has strengthened ties between the two communities. Several peace songs and dances were sung and performed during the two-day fete that marked 30 years of peace between the two communities.
"Let’s embrace peace, brotherhood and unity, lets destroy all the instruments of war that have killed our husbands, sons and relatives, lets spread the blanket of peace in our land", said the presentation.
A delighted Moroto resident was overheard whispering, "Really, peace is very important. We need to convince our people to abandon cattle raids. See, even we look alike." There are very little physical differences between the Turkana and Matheniko.
The visitors were also treated to a lively ‘Akidonga’ traditional dance. The women challenged men from other neighbouring communities to stop fighting over cattle and instead emulate the peaceful relations between the Matheniko and Turkana community.
Poetry, songs, drama and traditional folk media provide a sure conduit for disseminating peace messages and gestures that should go a long way in influencing people’s behaviour in the society.
However, little has been done to exploit these peace building avenues. ITDGPractical Action EA has organized a teacher’s workshop (Secondary and Primary) from conflict prone districts in Kenya to sit together and draft peace poems that will be recited by students and other groups to convey peace messages.
Moroto United showcased the best of soccer talent in the whole of Karamojong cluster when they thrashed visiting Loima stars from Turkana district 3-0 in an entertaining match played at Moroto Stadium, Uganda. Moroto United, a team comprising young stars mainly drawn from Moroto, Nakapipirit, Kotido and Kaabong districts, dictated the pace of the match for the better part of the second half. The match was played on 11th October 2003.
The match was graced by the Moroto district Chief Administrative Officer flanked by his deputy. Men, women, warriors and children from all walks of life cheered the two teams throughout the 90 minutes of thrilling play.
The home team, Moroto United, was cheered wildly when they netted the first goal in the 42nd minute of the first half. The stadium went into infinite bliss and unprecedented cheering when Moroto United added the other two goals in the 63rd and 84th minutes of the second half.
ITDGPractical Action-EA facilitated the soccer match as an alternative and innovative way of strengthening relations and ties between the two neighbouring communities who have only been known to engage in deadly cattle raids. With the changing dynamics and the increasing severity of conflicts in the Karamojong cluster, peace actors are seeking other approaches of improving inter- community relations. Women peace crusades, drama and songs festivals, radio programmes and other avenues of securing peace and livelihoods of pastoralists in the greater horn of Africa region are now being positively embraced and replicated.
Moroto district AOC thanked ITDGPractical Action-EA, WV-POKATUSA and other stakeholders for facilitating the thrilling soccer match that has not only thrilled the spectators but has also strengthened ties between the two communities. He challenged other communities to organize events and traditional festivals that will bring different communities together.