The Ilemi triangle is a territory of about 14,000 square km whose ownership is disputed by the neighbouring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda. The interethnic conflict in the Ilemi triangle is basically between the Turkana of Kenya, Nyang’atom of Ethiopia and Toposa of South Sudan. Issues of limited access to resources such as pasture, water along with boundary issues are critical factors causing the conflict in the Ilemi triangle. The Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation (SCCRR) has been requested by the communities to assist them in putting in place mechanisms of conflict intervention. As a result, Shalom opted to equip the communities in the affected areas with skills of conflict resolution and relevant peacebuilding techniques.
Consequently, peacebuilding progress in the Ilemi triangle is optimistic with a willingness of the conflicting parties to come together and resolve their differences. This progress is noticeable through action planning activities that are successfully initiated by Shalom and implemented by the community with the aim of re-establishing positive peace. However, this does not happen overnight as a process has to be followed in order to create peaceful coexistence between the conflicting parties. This process could take weeks, months and years depending on the intensity of the conflict and the approach used by the intervening party. Indeed, Shalom’s approach to peacebuilding in Kibish, a sub-county in Turkana County, has brought calmness in the area as cases of insecurity associated with livestock rustling, attacks to Kraals (mobile Villages) and killing of the families in Kraals has gone down. This is a credit to the methodology that Shalom is using for peacebuilding in the Ilemi triangle to restore peace. This methodology entails, research, peacebuilding trainings, action planning/implementation, problem solving and peace education into school in areas of entrenched conflicts.
In Kibish, SCCRR has trained local chiefs, security agents, religious leaders, influential women and village elders, youth Morans (Warriors), Nyumba Kumi Initiative leaders (a strategy of policing that is responsive to the needs of local communities; a force multiplier that contributes to effective conflict transformation, social stability and development), representatives from schools and Non-Governmental Organizations with knowledge and skills which they have used to create a peaceful co-existence between the Turkana people with their neighbouring community of the Nyang’atom from Ethiopia. Indeed, the trained participants from the Turkana community have been able to facilitate different peace meetings with their counterparts the Nyang’atom of Ethiopia in order to facilitate negotiation, resolution and transformation of their differences which have kept them apart for years. One of the participants, Ekaale Katana Alokou who is a village elder asserted their commitment towards continued advocacy for peace in the Ilemi triangle having received the enlightening support from Shalom.
As a result, various efforts have been made by the Kibish Shalom Peace Group in an effort to restore positive relationships between the community of Kibish and the Nyang’atom of Ethiopia. Key among this is the organized peacebuilding meetings between different stakeholders from both conflicting communities. For instance the women of Turkana and Nyang’atom held a peace meeting on 27th November 2016 in Ethiopia with the aim of sensitizing community leaders on the importance of peaceful coexistence. Moreover, peacebuilding meetings held between the elders from the Turkana and Nyang’atom at Nachebot at the border of Ethiopia and Kenya ended with the elders from the conflicting communities sharing a meal as a symbol of their renewed unity and commitment towards peace. This has been demonstrated by the elders from both communities who are actively involved in the returning of stolen livestock hence solidifying the trust between them. Indeed, the young people are also not left behind in this endeavour. The reformed and reforming youth Warriors who have joined the Shalom Peace group frequently conduct intercultural meetings involving their fellow young people whereby they teach them about the importance of peaceful co-existence as they emphasize on community exchange visits and inter-marriages.
From the views gathered from participants who attended Shalom workshop in July 2017, there was a concurrence that Shalom has made substantial efforts in peacebuilding interventions in the Ilemi triangle as they lauded the SCCRR presence among them in their ‘time of need’, bearing in mind the concerns for men, women and children suffering the plight of past killing, maiming and displacement. Shalom is still on the journey of sustaining peace and development with the residents living in the Ilemi triangle. Shalom’s constant work on the ground and evaluations in this area ensures that not only the seeds of peace are planted in the Ilemi Triangle but also reaping rewards of stable peace, development and hope for present and future generations. The people thank our supporters worldwide and need their continued presence through shalom with them. In this way ongoing progress can be watered and nurtured to guarantee positive fruits for the peaceful co-existence between the people of Turkana, Nyang’atom and the Toposa.
By Arthur Magero Abonyo (MA), and Jude Nnamdi (MA Student)