The recurrent manifest conflict engagements between the Pokot and Turkana communities have been a common phenomenon for decades. Many factors contribute to the risk of violent conflict between the Pokot and Turkana communities, and these have tended to become mutually reinforcing. The major causes of conflict between these two communities entail issues, but not limited to, cattle rustling, proliferation of illicit arms, inadequate policing and state security arrangements, diminishing role of traditional governance systems, competition over control and access to natural resources such as pasture and water, land issues, political incitements, ethnocentrism, and increasing levels of poverty. To what extent these are the underlying causes of the conflict is constantly receiving scrutiny from Shalom’s conflict solving and educational interventions.
In the past three years SCCRR has inserted itself in to the conflict zones, training both Turkana and Pokot community leaders with analytical skills in identifying the causes of conflict and enhancing their abilities to transform these conflicts. This has seen positive transformations at the psychological, spiritual and relational levels of people moving away from manifest violence to pro-active individual and programmatic involvement in reconciliation initiatives. This set the stage for a crucial problem solving workshop process that would involve direct, unofficial communication between the two antagonist groups. During 2015, under the leadership and guidance of Shalom, in collaboration with various religious and civil society organizations, both communities mandated ten key members each to undertake exploratory discussions to look for ways to manage the conflict and co-exist peacefully with each other. The two committees comprised of chiefs, District Peace Committee members, women leaders, religious leaders, village elders from communities, set about looking at the ways in which they could in practice prevent, manage or transform interethnic conflicts, reducing tension and improving the intercommunity relations between the Pokot and Turkana communities. They recognised that Shalom has trained them well and that they ultimately need to be the architects of their own shared future of interdependence.
The first problem solving workshop took place in Eldoret in September, 2015 followed by a second workshop on February 8th of this year with another five phases in the process to be planned. There is no place in this process for a quick-fix. They participants have experienced too much false hope in the past from such interventions, no matter how well the intentions were. Both communities expressed great appreciation for the professionalism and commitment of Shalom to accompany them on the difficult and long road to peace. After phase one of the problem-solving workshop, a number of peace initiatives by the committees followed in a concerted effort by both committees in agreement with their respective communities to include sanctions for any member from either community who violates peace in the region.
Since the initiation of this problem-solving workshop, the peace committee’s members from the Pokot and Turkana have been working together and as a result the following positive signs have been realised:
- 26 Donkeys belonging to the Turkana which had been seized by the Pokot were returned on 28th November 2015 by the Pokot committee members;
- 10 goats stolen by the Pokots on 29th December 2015 from the Turkana were recovered and returned on 4th January 2016;
- 5 road bandits have been prosecuted and charged;
- A Turkana child that was kidnapped by the Pokots was rescued by the Pokot committee members.
In a poverty stricken semi-arid environment these above issues are life-death-survival matters for thousands of people. It is anticipated that this ongoing process, which is built on a strong Shalom foundation of training and empowerment, will produce changes in the perceptions and attitudes among members of both communities (pictured on this page) and further facilitate creative problem solving initiatives to the conflict in the region.