Pastoralist communities call for peace
. . . as harsh conflicts and harsh climatic conditions threaten girl education
Clan and ethnic conflicts among communities living in the northern corridor of Kenya have been going on intermittently over the years. These conflicts often escalate during prolonged drought or around election time.
The Kenya National Action Plan on United Nations Security Resolution 1325 and 1820 recognises that the country has experienced increased outbreaks of violent conflict as a result of elections, terrorism, piracy, militia and secessionist groups, climate change, and other issues that have posed a huge challenge to the country’s stability.
The Kenya National Action Plan on United Nations Security Resolutions 1325 and 1820 recognises that over the past two decades, Kenya has experienced outbreaks of conflict due to a variety of causes.
Kenya’s conflicts have been classified into four categories:
- Conflicts within pastoral communities;
- Conflicts between pastoral and agricultural communities;
- Conflicts linked to the presence of refugees (often wrought by humanitarian and natural disasters);
- Ethnic clashes (including politically instigated violence);
The first two categories of conflict are exacerbated by fragile ecological conditions and competition for natural resources.
Among the affected pastoralist communities are the Somali, Borana, Turkana, and Pokot, who live in a belt that stretches across the northern region of Kenya, and the Maasai in the southern Rift Valley. However, other factors, such as political competition among clans and communities, the availability of small arms, and stock theft have complicated and changed the conflict dynamics.
Women’s security is often severely compromised, and they suffer increased violations of their rights. In situations of conflict, women bear the greatest burden, facing gender-based and sexual violence, the loss of livelihoods, and mass displacement.
One of the areas that has witnessed major conflicts among pastoralist communities is along Ewaso Nyiro River. These fights pose a huge challenge to girls’ education that is hugely supported availability and sale of livestock.
During a recent five day 250 kilometres camel caravan trek which started at Ol-Naboli Bandas Laikipia County to Merti in Isiolo County the Samburu and Borana communities agreed on maintaining peace and stability for the sake of the girl child education.
During the event, 17 girls from Isiolo County participated in the historic walk to sensitise other community members on the seriousness of the issue.
It was noted that conflicts are usually on the rise during the dry season when both Borana and Samburu communities are left to share the limited resource of Ewaso Nyiro River, a river that is currently being threatened by encroachment and climate change conditions.
“As the two warring communities, we do not see eye to eye due to our strained relationship that emanates from lack of water and pasture,” says Dabaso Halkano, a village elder in Merti.
Halkano notes that the camel caravan is an initiative that is expected to help bring them together to solve some of the issues that are blamed for retarding development in northern Kenya.
“As parents we have seen donor funding for our girls reduce in the recent past, livestock that is our only source of income are also dying, and we have no choice but to watch in sadness as our girls drop out of school,” Halkano observes.
He notes that with continued conflict over water and pasture, there is a likelihood that marginalized communities will be wiped out by poverty.
“Traditionally our daughters were not supposed to go to school, but now we have realised the potential they have when they get education,” says Halkano. He explains: “We are here to call upon the county leadership to help us sort this issue once and for all. We are fed up.”
Sarah Gedo, a Public Health student at Kenya Polytechnic University is not happy about the whole issue of conflicts and cattle rustling. As a young woman she views conflict over natural resources as a backward way of dealing with issues.
”We get affected when these conflicts arise since our parents can only pay for our education from sale of livestock. So when they fight and lose the animals in the process, we are forced to drop out from seeking education,” she says.
Gedo notes that the biggest challenge in the region is the changing climatic patterns that require good knowledge on adaptation.
Michael Olong’ojine from Losisia, Samburu County says that he has walked for seven days in search of water for his family livestock.
“We do not want anybody to stray in our land with livestock since we have limited water and pasture as Ewaso River is drying up at a very fast pace,” says Olong’ojine. He observes: “As a Samburu Moran I think we need dialogue with Boranas on how we can share resources sustainably.”
According to Olong’ojine, all the communities in the region are affected by the recurrent drought and famine.
“I am ready to marry a Borana lady if given a chance to help integrate both communities more,” Olong’ojine says.
However, Halima Kambicha, chairperson of Walegana Self-Help Group views conflicts as the greatest threat to economic development among pastoralist communities.
“In this region we rely on livestock and sponsorship for our girls’ education yet support for their education has dropped forcing us to rely on livestock,” Kambicha notes.
She says that women joined the caravan in large numbers to send a strong message to the leaders that they need peace and stability to develop as a community.
“Drought and famine is the order of the day here and it’s giving us sleepless nights, and in addition to conflicts, poverty is set to wipe us out,” Kambicha observes.
Isiolo County Governor, Godana Doyo has committed to supporting any initiatives aimed at peace building among the Samburu and Borana Communities.
“As a County Government we are in constant talks with our brothers in Samburu on how the two communities can live in peace and harmony,” Doyo says.
He said the County Government had set aside funds to enable girls secure education just as the boy child.