‘‘Shalom remains a beacon of hope to us since they have continued to equip us with the necessary knowledge and skills for peacebuilding and conflict transformation. We appreciate Shalom’s unrelenting commitment to strengthen our local structures, organizing and mobilizing our communities for joint conflict intervention.” Mr. Sammy Lepalat, A leader of a community group in Mt. Kulal, trained and empowered by Shalom-SCCRR.
Marsabit County is prone to inter-ethnic conflicts mostly among pastoralist communities of Samburu, Turkana, Gabbra, Borana, Dassanech, and Rendile. People – men women and children – have been frequently killed, maimed and displaced. The causes of these conflicts involve issues concerning competition over access and usage of grazing fields and water points, livestock thefts and raids, disputes over land and boundaries, revenge killings, cultural practices and, political incitements. The manifest direct violence is underpinned by factors of structural violence that make it very difficult for people to meet their basic human needs or have a chance of actualizing their potential. The cycle of inter-tribal conflicts has led to numerous negative impacts particularly fractured relations among the communities in this area. The conflict memory of attacks and counter-attacks is very resilient. Shalom-SCCRR has been working with these communities in rebuilding their own relations through the provision of essential problem solving techniques and strengthening of local-based structures for long term conflict transformation.
In 2019, through its progressive intervention strategy in the target project areas of Loiyangalani, Sarima, Arapal, Mt. Kulal and Gas, Shalom-SCCRR was able to enhance the communities’ analytic skills, and techniques in negotiations in preparation for problem solving workshops in the region. The communities were able to identify their conflict issues, existing intervention gaps and even proposed conflict management strategies in addressing their own conflicts; a crucial step in problem solving process. ‘‘By critically identifying the conflict issues, the existing gaps in our conflict interventions, Shalom has assisted us in laying a good foundation for negotiations phase that we had always ignored,’’ stated Assistant chief Roba Gone from Gas. Empowering the local tribes to be the architects of their own interdependent future is central to Shalom-SCCRR’s work in violent conflict zones.
As a result of knowledge and skills acquired by the communities, there is currently increased number of inter-communal dialogue meetings that have resulted to the sharing of previously contested grazing fields and water points, decrease in incidences of livestock theft and raids, and increase in cases of return of stolen livestock. Chief Sarai Fecha from Loiyangalani pointed out that, “Kraals from the Turkana community from Loiyangalani and Gabra from Gas during the drought season lived alongside each other, this is attributed to Shalom’s peacebuilding work in the region.’’ In addition to that Chief Mata noted ‘‘Communities from Loiyangalani and Gas are now able to jointly look for stolen animals and return the animals to the rightful owners, in cases of killing of animals the communities deliberate on the compensation process, thanks to Shalom.’’
On the school development front, SCCRR continues to provide developmental support in target inter-ethnic and inter-religious schools in Marsabit County. SCCRR’s peace developmental strategy entails development, rebuilding and renovation of schools through supply of learning and construction materials. The provision of infrastructural assistance in schools, has contributed to an enabling environment for children from the conflict milieu to access formal education hence make them better their future lives by accessing opportunities just like other kids in other parts of the world. This will go further in providing a platform for breaking the cycle of violence in these communities. Shalom-SCCRR provided desks, mattresses and solar lighting systems to Loiyangalani Primary School; building and construction materials to Santur Primary School; teaching and learning materials (books, tables, chairs, and laboratory materials) to ElBuru Magado Pre-School and Kulal Girls. Materials support has resulted in improved performance of pupils and students as well as increased enrollment and retention of students and teachers.
Through peace education, members of established peace clubs in the target schools are being transformed in terms of their negative attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviours and perceptions against the ethnic other. Tolerance and innovative interaction among different community members is progressing consistently. The school going children are being equipped with alternative methods of settling disputes and resolving conflicts, inculcating a culture of peace both at the school and community level. This is informed by the fact that these children are vulnerable as they live in areas entrenched by violent conflict and this affects their lives and the way they relate with each other.
Peace club members from Santur Primary noted that ‘‘Peace Education has contributed to increased interactions among kids from different within communities in our school – we are no longer a ‘Turkana School’, other communities are also represented in our school.’’ Pupils and learners from Shalom-SCCRR engaged schools in Loiyangalani have been referred to Agents of Peace for they are fostering inter-communal cohesion through their joint peace activities in schools.
Shalom appreciates the communities’ efforts, vigour and determination in contributing to the transformation of their conflicts in the target areas. The organization will ALWAYS continue to be committed in working with communities towards the rebuilding of their fractured relations in the target project areas in Marsabit County.
By Esther Kibe, MA, Shalom-SCCRR’s Program Officer, Marsabit Project & Head of Communication Department.