For a long time there has been ethnic tension and frequent flare up of clashes along the Kisumu-Nandi border with deaths being reported from time to time. The flaring up of conflict has often been associated with rampant cattle rustling pitting the Luo and the Kalenjin who live side by side along this borderline. Other than cattle raiding, the tension has also been associated with political processes. The border between these two counties has been characterized by conflict in nearly every season of political campaigns and elections since the onset of multiparty politics in Kenya in 1992.
These conflicts have resulted into a myriad of effects. Other than killing and displacement of human populations, people’s livelihood have greatly been affected with sugar cane plantations being burnt, public service vehicles perceived to belong to members of the opposite ethnic group burned, homes and houses torched and massive displacement of people from villages that are closer to the border. Kibigori shopping centre (a cosmopolitan town in Muhoroni Constituency, Kisumu County) which under normal circumstances hosts about 5,000 people from both Kalenjin and Luo communities is always completely deserted whenever conflict erupts as both communities move to the interiors of their counties due to high levels of mistrust, tension and fear of attacks.
This sorry state of affairs has attracted the attention of various stakeholders over the years and finally prompted the invitation of Shalom-SCCRR to the area to help initiate a more sustainable peacebuilding initiative. Shalom positively responded to the invitation and has since opted to putting up a strong foundation which would support the process of a long term and successful intervention that would in turn help to address the underlying causes and not the mere symptoms of a deeper problem.
Characteristic to its methodology, Shalom has embarked first on conducting a detailed conflict analysis through key informant interviews and focus group discussions involving influential opinion shapers from government and non-governmental institutions. The conflict analysis has given close attention to a number of variables.
First, the project has focused on identifying and distinguishing the proximate from the structural and underlying causes of the conflict so as to inform the interventions. The analysis of the conflict issues points at inequality in land ownership due to historical unprocedural land acquisition systems as one of the major factors that underlie the interethnic conflict between the Luo and the Kalenjin along Kisumu/Nandi border. From the observations made by the SCCRR team that conducted the initial field visit, much of the land area that covers this borderline, is owned by slightly below two percent (2%) of the population. The unfortunate scenario is that the land area owned by this small population is the part that best supports farming. This implies that majority of the human population living in this borderline are either landless or own very small tracts of land which are not enough to support subsistence or commercial crop cultivation. Indeed SCCRR’s Conflict Situational Analysis established that majority of the poorer people living in this area own an average of two (2) acres of land while the wealthier people own up to 5,000 acres of land. The problem of land inequality is further worsened by the fact that majority of the small pieces of land owned by these marginalized people are in the hilly areas which are very rocky hence unable to support farming. Bearing in mind that the mainstay of people’s livelihood in this area is agriculture, the problem of landlessness has increased poverty levels among these people, since they are not able to farm and earn a living out of farming. Landlessness and the ensuing poverty appears to be the greatest underlying factor that contributes to the proximate factors such as cattle theft, invasion of people’s private farms and frequent attacks on settled community members as a way of scaring them to migrate and leave their pieces of land in the hands of the poor and landless attackers. This has further led to the contestation of boundary between Kisumu and Nandi counties.
Secondly, Shalom has delved into doing a detailed stakeholder analysis focused on identifying the stakeholders that are influential enough and can be engaged directly in capacity building so as to make them ready for implementing action plans for peace on behalf of the two communities. In a bid to enhance greater and wider stakeholder collaboration, SCCRR has held meetings with key government leaders in both Kisumu and Nandi counties involving the County Commissioner of Kisumu County and the Deputy County Commissioners of both Muhoroni and Tinderet Sub-Counties. These meetings have been very productive and a sure promise of the government’s support to Shalom’s initiative since the leaders have endorsed the work and taken it upon themselves to help mobilize all local government leadership to be part of the initiative. The stakeholder mapping exercise has aided Shalom’s process of group formation leading to the identification of twenty (20) influential community leaders drawn from all existing grass root community groups from both communities. The 20 member committee will constitute the cross border peace committee that will be engaged by Shalom to support the implementation of both intra and inter-community peacebuilding activities.
Finally, mapping the conflict context has been a central activity of Shalom’s preparation. Shalom has engaged the communities in coming up with conflict maps showing all the conflict hotspots as well as all the existing opportunities that can support a successful intervention. As part of its intervention mapping exercise, Shalom has established all the target villages in both counties of Kisumu and Nandi. These are Kibigori, Kopere, Songhor and Tamu in Kisumu county and Chemase, Tampul, Kimwani, Mberere, Owiro farm and Soba in Nandi County.
Information emanating from the conflict analysis has helped in the drawing of a detailed project design document which outlines the full details of the project strategy and the expected outcomes. This initial preparation has been very vital for Shalom in putting a robust intervention in place and the implementation of activities is expected to unfold smoothly while registering steady progress towards achieving peaceful co-existence between communities along this borderline.
Author: Godfrey Okoth, M.A., B.A.; SCCRR Program Manager and Project Team Leader Kisumu/Nandi Project