Elders and church leaders unite pastoral communities with historical feuds

img_Jacinta_AlimlimAccording to Mr. losokotian, 78, one of the Turkana elders, “Times have changed and we need to appreciate that all of us are created by one God. We love peace and we want harmonious coexistence with all our neighbours.” He said. Cattle’s rustling is an exercise that is highly practiced by the two communities that have never experienced peace for over 25 years. As a result, the two communities created boundaries that if any of the tribes’ people crossed it; it would be trespass hence war ensued.

According to a Turkana elder, scarcity of pasture, water, food, livestock, inadequate security personnel, vengeance, greed, and shortage of alternatives to pastoralism; are some of the causes of clashes witnessed more often in the region. Jacinta Alimlim is a politician born and bred in Turkana land. She says, “Extreme poverty, loss of livestock through raiding, lack of water and livestock pastures, distrust and injustices against one ethnic community also cause conflict amongst the Samburu, Pokots and Turkanas.”

Ms. Alimlim also pointed out that diminishing effect of traditional peace-building methods where elders would negotiate and mediate upon a contentious issue and arrive at an amicable solution without bloodshed also is a setback. “Modern raiding methods like killing without taking belongings, carrying illegal guns, no police arrests of evil perpetuators and unprovoked culturally sanctioned violent aggression against others; also culminates to tension.” She said.

AMWIK supported many women who were contesting for various elective seats in a recent General Election.  Ms. Jacinta Alimlim is one of them. She was eyeing County Representative seat for Nachola Ward, Samburu North Constituency which had attracted more than six contestants. She lost to a male contestant. “I lost the seat to my brother but this doesn’t mean that I stop offering leadership to my people. I shall continue since it gives me pleasure to bring positive change to my fellow country men and women.” She posed.

The long standing animosity that exists between the Turkana‐ Samburu is as a result of cattle raids, killing when resisted to raid the cattle, different ethnic identities and killing as a part of a rite for the morans (age groups). Before the March 4th election, various church elders from these communities called for peace and brotherhood to end violence in the area.

Daniel Saitoti who hails and heads a local church in Baragoi was among the religious team that called for peaceful coexistence and brotherly love in the region. “Some cultural practices among the Turkana people like circumcision is not practised hence this makes the Samburu speaking people look down upon the Turkanas.” He stated. Rev. Saitoti challenged the two communities to unite and come up with lasting solutions which are home-grown to the problems they face each day rather than concentrate on issues like  who is circumcised and not.

“Apart from draught, hostility between the two communities intensifies whenever elections approach. We felt a need to do something to remind people who live in this area that they are brothers and sisters and the animosity is not necessary,” says Simon Lopeyok, Marti Church elder.

According to Lopeyok, gathering at Logetei was great for the two communities because it was the first time each was crossing the Maralal-Baragoi-Kawop road. To any observer, the road, which separates Baragoi trading centre into two halves, is an ordinary passageway. But to the members of the two communities, it is a delineation — the line between life and death.

The road separates members of the Samburu and Turkana communities with each occupying the opposite side. Other communities such as the Pokot, Kikuyu and even the Luo can also be found in Baragoi, but they are the minority. Ms. Veronica Ejore, Chair lady, Longetei Women Group says that besides cattle rustling, which is the known cause of feuds between the Samburu and Turkana, another underlying cause of tension between the two communities is the feeling by the Turkana that the Samburu despise them because of their culture. “Conflicts over resources are exacerbated by drought and are common in Northern parts of the Country. Besides rampant malnutrition, desperate competition for pasture and water has led to increased livestock theft.” Ms. Ejore said

The Women leader called on all the political leaders to come up with a strategy to unite the communities, address poverty by constructing dams, develop good infrastructure to ease accessibility which will promote irrigation and trade on crops they will grow. “Women are beast of burden. We are ready to work. What we are lacking is capital, roads and political will. With good leadership, sand and stones harvested here by unscrupulous business people can help in developing this region. There are hardly any schools or hospitals in this region. She said.

Ms. Joyce Nyaruai, AMWIK staff, educated the conflicting communities that embracing peace is the beginning to development they longed for. “When people are in war, all the resources they have are destroyed and loss of valuable human resource. But, if there is peaceful coexistence with little resource, this can be turned into a fortune to solve heap of problems the two communities have.” She also informed the community of the value of harmonious living which if present, may be noticed by well wishers who in turn might help them by starting developmental projects in the area to create job opportunities for the members in these communities among other benefits.