- Tension grips Elemi triangle
- Combatting proliferation of small arms
- Theatre group supported
- Peace Tree Network
- Karamojong cluster unveils peace road map
- Homegrown peace initiative: the case of Wajir district
- Rift Valley and Eastern in crucial peace talks
- Rendilles compensate slain Borana
Peace has continued to be elusive in Elemi triangle that transcends Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia courtesy of intertribal cattle raids and animosity. Turkana, Toposa, Dinka, Dong’iro and Merille communities occupy the triangle and have been sporadically raiding each other since the beginning of the year.
The Turkana community has borne much of the brunt due to her geographical location. The community is in conflict with virtually all her neighbours: Merille, Dong’iro, Toposa and Dinka to the north, Karamojong to the west, Pokot and Samburu to the south. Of all the regions, the northern frontier conflicts have been most severe and frequent.
Despite the conflict predicament that the Turkana people have found themselves entangled in, the community has on several occasions entered into customary peace pacts with her neighbours. Unfortunately, such agreements have been flouted rather than honoured. Cease-fire with the Dong’iro who are more or less culturally related with the Turkana, is the only one which has been honoured so far.
Towards the end of last year, Turkana, Dong’iro and Merille elders convened a meeting at Todonyang border (Kenya-Ethiopia) Police Post and deliberated on how to restore calm in the triangle. After three days of intensive consultations, the elders came up with measures to solve conflicts (Todonyang declaration) amongst the three communities. Regrettably, the very day the meeting was concluded, a group of belligerent Merille warriors struck at around 11 a.m. at a fishing center, Loareng’ak, shooting dead 11 people including 6 members of the same family and two pupils. The Todonyang declaration was immediately suspended and revenge and counter-revenges ensued. Recently, Turkana warriors raided Merille manyattas driving away an unknown number of cattle and killing a dozen Merilles. Some Turkana warriors lost their lives during the raid. Tension has continued to grip the two communities.
In response to a Toposa (Sudan) raid on the Turkana during the run up to last years general election in Kenya, the two communities entered into a customary agreement to stop cattle raids. The agreement was sealed at Kapota, Sudan and witnessed by communities’ elders, legislators and government officials. The pact sanctioned the Toposa to return the stolen animals. No specific date or timeframe was given for the return of the livestock. To add salt to injury, the Toposa community again raided the Turkana in early May, provoking their victims to retaliate. The Turkana argued that the Toposa had not honoured the Kapota declaration. Revenge was the only way to seek justice, or so they thought.
Between 8th and 10th June, the Turkana community attacked a Toposa manyatta driving away hundreds of livestock, killing about 30 people and injuring a dozen others. During the skirmishes, the Turkana also suffered casualties. The hoof prints of the stolen livestock were traced towards Lorianatom, Mogilla, and Oropoi areas in Turkana district. As we were going to press, rumours were that the Toposa were seeking Dinka reinforcement to mount a deadly revenge. Again, the peace pact between the two communities was thrown into disarray with revenge missions taking a toll in the region.
The Turkana community has also pointed a finger at refugees at Kakuma for allegedly engaging in illicit arms trafficking and feeding their tribesmen back home (Toposa, Dinka - Sudan and Ethiopian Merille) with information on Turkana grazing patterns and livestock concentration. They allege that the manner in which the attacks are carried out displays high level of intelligence information, for the attackers act with undue precision and strategy.
The inter-community conflicts compounded by suspended customary methods of conflict resolution has made it impossible for the said communities to access the pastures in Elemi triangle. The Elemi communities have moved further away from the conflict hotspots making the pasture-rich area a no man’s land. Inter community interaction and business has greatly been curtailed translating to escalating enmity and abject poverty. In an effort towards resolving the impasse, ITDGPractical Action-EA and a number of peace partners are planning to facilitate a peace meeting that will bring together the various conflicting communities although the peace agreements have been suspended.
Arms transfer and trafficking is having a devastating impact on Sub-Saharan Africa. The proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) is no doubt a global phenomenon whose adverse effects are most visible in Africa. These weapons make conflict more deadly and crime easier, feeding cultures of retribution and downward spirals of violence around the world.
Besides taking a heavy toll on human life, small arms undermine nations’ development. The widespread abuse of weapons deprives developing countries of the skills and talents of the victims of small arms.
Small arms are the preferred tools of violence in most internal wars, coups, militia and gang rampages, government oppression and human rights abuses. The arms are also commonly used in domestic and transnational crime. In cultures of violence and gun-ownership these weapons become symbols of power and pride, even objects of affection.
In Uganda, the Karamojong for many years relied on traditional weapons when engaging in cattle and clan warfare. By the late 1990s, there was an estimated 30,000-40,000 AK-47 rifles in the hands of Karamojong. Ownership of such weapons conferred a political, social and economic status. Often times, an AK-47, was part of the bride price. In Kenya for instance, small arms are prevalent in the North Rift Region with a significant percentage of the male population possessing illegal arms. A report by the Nairobi based Security Research and Information Centre entitled Profiling Small Arms and Insecurity in the North Rift Region of Kenya estimates that there are about 127, 519 small arms in the region. It is the prevalence of insecurity in this region that has contributed to the gun culture. The communities, largely pastoralists, arm themselves in a bid to protect their livestock from aggressors.
Until recently, the disarmament and non-proliferation debate mainly focused on weapons of mass destruction. The issue of small arms and light weapons proliferation was brought to light by the UN through the Secretary General’s Agenda for Peace, 1995 with only a focus on "macro-disarmament" which means practical disarmament only in the conflicts areas where the UN is working.
The recently negotiated UN Protocol against the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components, and ammunition, introduced some minimum standards for the legal trade in small arms. The most important part of the protocol pertains to the transit system. Governments are required to exchange documents whenever an arms shipment leaves, transits, or arrives in their territory. This process creates a chain of documentary evidence that makes diverting arms for illegal purposes more difficult and assists police forces investigating such diversions.
The Nairobi Declaration signed by consensus by Burundi, DRC, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Sudan, and Uganda aids in curbing spread of small arms. It reflects a willingness on the part of signatory nations to address the illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the region. So far, Tanzania has fully established a National Focal Point. Kenya and Uganda are at an advanced stage in this process while the other countries are working on these bodies as control mechanisms.
The Nairobi Declaration highlights the importance of community and civil society involvement in framing and seeking solutions to the problems brought about by the proliferation of SALW.
The authors of this article, Wairagu Francis and Ndung’u James are researchers with Security Research and Information Centre (SRIC).
ITDGPractical Action-EA has aided Marsabit peace committee with a motorbike valued at Ksh. 180,000 to facilitate their mobility, early warning and rapid response missions, among other exigencies in their peace endevours. At the same time, the agency gave PARA youth group musical instruments worth Ksh. 94,000, which the group vowed to use to scale up their peace campaigns using poetry, drama and songs.
Upon receiving the motorbike, the peace committee, through their chairman, expressed their gratitude to ITDGPractical Action-EA for its continued assistance ranging from capacity building, crossborder peace meetings facilitation and exposure visits. "When mobile phone firms reach the district, please aid us with cell phones so as to enhance our communication and rapid responses," the committee chairman appealed.
ITDGPractical Action-EA Conflict Management Project manager, Mr. Mohamoud Adan, appealed to the peace groups to use the equipment for the intended purposes and not to personalize them. Other leaders present thanked the agency for the help noting that it will greatly enhance the work of the peace committee and the youth group.
Meanwhile, ITDGPractical Action-EA has given Tapach and Kapyegon peace committees from West Pokot and Marakwet districts respectively, Ksh. 80,000 each to enhance their peace building campaigns and also to facilitate their movements.
While handing over the cheques to the committees, Mr. Mohamoud hinted that plans are underway to bring together all pastoralist MPs in a bid to address the cattle rustling menace at key decision-making level. "There is a growing concern among the pastoralist legislators, communities, government and civil society to address cattle raids at a policy level and in a co-rdinated manner. Development of livestock sector and marketing should be factored in during such fora as a way of promoting pastoralists’ livelihoods and economy," he said.
The peace committees’ representatives thanked ITDGPractical Action-EA for the donation and pledged to scale up their conflict resolution endeavours.
As violent conflicts become more and more rampant in Africa, efforts to curb them must be sought. Notwithstanding the efforts of the international community, local civil society organizations top the list of actors in this respect. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper coordination and harmonization, these efforts are rendered null and void. Uneasy competition amongst peace actors with regards to funding and target constituents has arisen.
It is against this background that Peace Tree Network (PTN) was established in 2000 with the mandate of fostering collaboration and solidarity in the building of peace in the region. It came about as the result of continued consultations amongst peace actors in the region. The consultations culminated in a workshop held in Nairobi, in 2000, on "The Challenges of Partnership - Toward an Alliance for Peacebuilding". The workshop led to the creation of Peace Gate which has been renamed Peace Tree Network.
As a regional body, PTN is committed to the vision of peaceful co-existence amongst peoples and states of the region. It is a forum for solidarity amongst peace actors and a search for just, sustainable, humane and peaceful alternatives at local, national and regional levels.
To realize its objectives, PTN has designed a range of activities, which include networking, capacity building, research, documentation, publication, conflict transformation, and advocacy. Currently, PTN is developing a Training of Trainers programme whose long-term goal is to equip PTN members with skills for effective response to conflicts in the region. The Kenya Focal Point has set the example and is at the second module. The Network is also planning a regional peace forum on "Fostering a common agenda for peace and solidarity amongst peace actors", to be held next year.
Ugandan Minister in charge of Karamojong affairs, Mr Peter Lokeris, has warned that force might be meted on communities and individuals that will derail the unveiled peace building initiative in the cattle rustling ravaged cluster.
Speaking during a cross-border peace meeting held at Moroto, Uganda, the Minister castigated cattle raids and highway banditry that has continued to abrogate development projects in the expansive and rugged cluster.
"If our people are adamant to peaceful coexistence, the government will do what is within its realm, including force, to restore calm and rule of law", the Minister warned.
During the meeting, Tepeth, Dodoth, Jie, Matheniko, Pian, Bokora, Turkana and Pokot communities elders (who are collectively referred to as Karamojong cluster), recounted the orgy of violent conflicts manifested as cattle rustling that has completely ravaged the cluster. The elders conceded that pastoralists occupy the ten poorest districts in Kenya while Karamojong districts in Uganda are the worst in all development indices. They agreed that there is a strong correlation between cattle rustling and poverty.
In a committed bid to move out of the quagmire, the elders called for cattle branding/tattooing, coordination between communities and governments, common utilization of pasture and water resources and institutionalization of customary methods of conflict management in the current judicial framework. The elders also agreed to encourage the communities to educate their children noting that the pen does not kill unlike the unforgiving bullet. These steps, the elders said, would form an exit strategy from the current horrendous acts of lawlessness that has characterized the border regions of Kenya and Uganda.
Kapenguria District Officer I, Mr Aden Gedew, admitted that it is difficult to effectively police the porous borders between the two states, especially due to the nomadic lifestyle of the people. "It is difficult to police people who have a stronger allegiance to their ethnic empire than the modern nation-state. They are always moving in search of water and pasture", the administrator said. His Nakapipirit counterpart blamed the Karamojong communities for not heeding wise men’s warnings, insisting that early warning should translate to early action.
On the other hand, Turkana District Commissioner, Mr Patrick M. Miiri, wondered why people with common historical origins, cultural heritage and language slaughter each other.
Among other things, the consultative meeting called for a coordinated and regional approach to disarmament of the communities, development of social and physical infrastructure, institutionalization of customary law and review of retrogressive cultural practices that spur conflicts. The participants unveiled a 12-month workplan that is envisaged to set a road map to peaceful coexistence in the cluster. In a move likely to prevent cattle raids in the region, the elders agreed to undertake a crucial traditional ritual where instruments of death (guns, bullets, arrows, bows and knives) will be buried together with other charms. The ritual will mark a major cease-fire and whoever will break the pact thereafter will suffer untold calamities. The ritual will draw from the Pokot-Samburu ritual that was performed hundred of years ago around Mt. Elgon, which explains why the two ethnic groups don’t fight.
ITDGPractical Action-EA, African Union; International Bureau of Animal Resources (AU IBAR), Pokot Karamojang Turkana Sabiny (POKATUSA) peace project, OXFAM GB, VSF Belgium, and Christian Children Fund (CCF), among others, jointly funded the meeting. Elders, warriors, women and faith groups attended the meeting.
Wajir district lies in the expansive but explosive north eastern province. The district borders Somalia to the North East and Ethiopia to the north. It also borders Moyale, Marsabit, Garissa, Mandera and Isiolo districts of Kenya. The district is arid and only supports nomadic pastoralism.
Conflicts in Wajir district are pegged on livestock resource constraints. Competition over the control and use of pasture and water resources among different clans and the people of the neighbouring districts, explains the gruesome conflict.
Wajir’s geographic proximity to neighbouring war torn states has aggravated the situation. Guns have easily found their way into hands of clan chiefs and fellow clansmen and most disturbingly, into the hands of blood-baying hot-blooded warriors who believe in nothing but victory.
With the influx of small arms into a district whose resource base is unstable, the last thing you need is political incitement. Unfortunately, it happened in 1992. The region suffered a devastating drought in 1991, the year that preceded the infamous 1992 general elections. As if that was not enough, the Somali Central Government collapsed, leading to a surge in the number of refugees, and more guns.
Men, women and children were ruthlessly butchered and thousands of livestock lost. The loss was so devastating that community members demanded for peace and nothing but peace.
The local initiative that later became the current model Wajir Peace and Development Committee (WPDC), commenced with door-to-door peace campaigns. Convincing women not catalyse the conflict, but instead deconstruct the mind of the warrior was one of the vital approaches the Wajir leaders emphasised. The women, who were drawn from different clans in the district heeded the call and formed the Women for Peace Group. The support of civil servants was also enlisted in the peace campaigns. The women and young local civil servants merged into Wajir Peace Group.
The peace crusaders next target was the elders. They approached the elders encouraging them to seek cease-fire and organise reconciliatory meetings between the warring clans. Elders for Peace group was formed.
The fourth target group were the faithbased leaders who preached peace in open-air markets across the district. The four groups worked together and in a short period of time, peace was restored in the district.
The peace group found it prudent to enlist government support in their peace endeavours. A series of meetings between the peace groups and district security committee were held and in May 1995, the peace groups and the DSC merged under one umbrella body called Wajir Peace and Development Committee thus the current WPDC, which has become a model homegrown peace initiative, was born. It immediately embarked on a mission to build peace using customary mechanisms.
To date, WPDC has initiated a number of development projects that are envisaged towards nurturing a culture of peace in the district. Rapid response to conflict exigencies in the district by the peace body has repulsed otherwise deadly cattle raids. Peace education in schools was introduced to reconstruct and decolonise the minds of the growing youth. Peace Education Network (PEN) has become part of the school curriculum in the district.
The peace committee has to their credit rehabilitated youth polytechnics in the district to equip the youth with skills that will enable them pursue alternative livelihoods and occupations. Conflict victims and school graduates have greatly benefited from the rehabilitated technical institutions.
Based on such a background and experience WPDC believes that peace is a collective responsibility, it is a group effort.
Incessant cattle raids, highway banditry and illicit arms dominated peace talks between Rift Valley and Eastern provinces peace committees held at Wamba, Samburu district in May 2003. The provincial administration, OXFAM GB, Security Research and Information Centre (SRIC) and ITDGPractical Action organized the meeting
The meeting was told that between 2001 and 2002, Meru North and Isiolo districts lost 8,712 livestock (valued at Ksh. 200 million) and 47 lives including four policemen (who lost their lives in the line of duty) to rustlers suspected to be from neighbouring Samburu district.
A furious Isiolo peace committee representative tabled a list of property (livestock) and lives they have lost to cattle rustlers since 2001. The list included 2,661 cattle, 660 goats, 39 camels, 19 donkeys and 39 lives. Another emotional Meru North peace committee member tabled a list of 4,983 livestock they have lost in the same time span to suspected Samburu and Rendille cattle rustlers.
On the other hand, Marsabit Peace Committee chairman informed the participants that apart from banditry along the Marsabit - Isiolo road, no major incidences of cattle raids have been reported. However, to the chagrin of present government officials, he alleged that most of the arms used in highway banditry were government owned and wondered how such arms found their way into the wrong hands.
The accusations and counteraccusations elicited uproar and discontent from the hosts (Samburu) prompting the Samburu Peace Committee chairman to dismiss the allegations leveled against them as erroneous acts of mudslinging and character assassination.
Former Provincial Commissioner Francis Lekolool almost threw the meeting into disarray when he alleged that the Meru and Isiolo communities should not cry foul as they are the very people who sold arms to Samburu community, in addition to engaging in and promoting trade in stolen livestock.
Samburu West MP Simon Lesirma castigated legislators from the neighbouring districts for snubbing the crucial peace talks. On proliferation of illicit arms, the legislator suggested a regional and coordinated approach to disarmament for arms proliferation is a regional issue. He appealed to the peace committees in the northern frontier districts to scrutinize, review and integrate the numerous peace declarations into one all-inclusive and culturally acceptable document.
The host MP Sammy Leshore (Samburu East) blamed the media for marginalizing pastoralist communities by generalizing that they are nothing but a group of belligerent bandits.
Rift Valley PC, Aggrey Mudenye, cautioned the warring communities in Northern Kenya not to spark warlike activities, noting that what is happening in some neighbouring countries is abhorrable. His Eastern Province counterpart noted that a lot of resources and government budgetary allocations in the frontier districts are channeled towards security operations at the expense of development projects. He ordered chiefs and their assistants to ensure that no stolen livestock enter their areas of jurisdiction, or else they will face the axe.
The Rendille community has compensated the Borana with a total of 115 cattle for their slain and injured tribesmen. This is in the spirit of the Modogashe declaration. The fine also includes returned livestock that was stolen in August at Marsabit hills when the killers struck. The hoofprints and footprints of the raided livestock and the killers were traced to Ndigir location, Laisamis division.
During the compensation ceremony, the Marsabit peace committee chairman observed that Modogashe declaration has really contributed to normalization of relations amongst different communities in northern Kenya. Heavy fines meted out on defaulting communities have deterred cattle rustling since the whole community is punished. The Ndigir location chief was at pains to part with such numbers of livestock observing that the fine could have been put to better use like educating children.
Presiding over the ceremony, Marsabit Division Officer I, thanked the peace committee, Ndigir chief, elders and the concerned communities for enforcing the Modogashe declaration.
Mr Jilo Dida and Hapo Dacha whose sons were slain and injured, respectively, during the raid received 55 heads of cattle. Earlier, 60 cattle was paid to them including the recovered cattle that were given to the owner.
Modogashe declaration, an offshoot of customary institutions of conflict management among the pastoral communities of northern Kenya, demands that for every man killed during raids, 100 heads of cattle are paid by the offending community. 50 heads of cattle are paid for a slain woman and a time none since traditionally, women are not killed during cattle raids. 15 heads of cattle are paid to an injured person while for livestock stolen, five times the number of raided stock is paid back to the owner.
Meanwhile, the Marakwet community has compensated a Pokot (Tapach) peace committee member who was shot dead by Marakwet warriors early February at Kamalokon forest. The slain Pokot was heading to Lomut trading centre for a peace meeting when he was ambushed. The incident had threatened prevailing security in the two neighbouring districts with the Pokot threatening to pull out of Kolowo peace declaration and retaliate if action is not taken. However, Marakwet elders under the auspices of Kapyegon peace committee normalized relations between the two neighbours by paying 40 heads of cattle to the Pokot community as per the Kolowo declaration.
Customary institutions of conflict management have significantly pacified northern Kenya and across the borders.
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