By Mary Koech
The County of Marsabit lies on the northeastern part of Kenya and has four constituencies: Moyale, North Horr, Saku and Laisamis. The county has areas of forest cover as well as a desert and is home to over ten different ethnic communities with different cultures, religions and languages. In recent years, Marsabit County has experienced dreadful ethnic clashes that have had detrimental effects on the local community members.
After the introduction of the devolved system of government in Kenya, Shalom conducted a workshop in Marsabit last year that sought to enhance the skills of conflict management within the devolved system of governance in order to resolve and prevent conflict. This March, Shalom held another workshop on “Managing Identity Conflicts,” aimed at having communities move from an “us versus them” attitude to one of “we” attitude.
Among those who attended both workshops was Chief Galsaracho from the Karare ward, Saku constituency. He has been Chief of Karare for over a decade. In an interview with Shalom, he gave the main causes of conflict in his Karare location as resource based (including water and land) as well as politics related conflict. Most residents of Karare are not only pastoralists but also farmers and therefore other communities are drawn to the area to try and acquire farm land – sometimes forcefully.
Chief Galsaracho expressed the importance of both workshops stating that they broadened his understanding on the various causes of conflict. He then pointed out that local administration like himself formed a Chief Forum where they would visit different locations and sub-locations to meet with local community members urging them to remain peaceful. Unfortunately due to conflict and a lack of commitment from the leaders, the Chief Forum stagnated for years.
Having gained more understanding on the causes of conflict as well as various conflict management skills, thanks to attending workshops conducted by Shalom, Chief Galsaracho (together with other Chiefs from 11 locations) has revived the Chief forums. They have collaborated with the Kenya Police Reservists and regularly visit the various locations encouraging local community members to collaborate and coexist for the benefit of the County at large. He pointed out that the recent workshop on Managing Identity Conflicts would boost their Chief forums as he would have more information to share for the benefit of all.Chief Galsaracho stated that when communities see their local leadership interacting and including them in peace initiatives, they are motivated to actively contribute to peaceful initiatives. This, he said would contribute to a long term attitude change among communities.