“The situation is tense and demanding,” said Joyce Wamae MA, SCCRR Program Officer.
Moyale is a small town that comprises a great deal of diverse identities. Situated at the border of Kenya and Ethiopia about 790 Km North of Nairobi, in Marsabit County, the dominantly Muslim town of Moyale is home to mainly the Borana (Oromo), Gabra, Burji, Rendille, and Garre groups from Kenya and Ethiopia. The Borana, Gabra and the Rendille are pastoralists whose main economic activity is livestock keeping while the Burji are mainly business people. Conflict between ethnic and political identities have since the early 2000’s been a characteristic way of life for communities living in the larger Marsabit County. Moyale and its surrounding regions have been hit hard by interethnic and inter-clan conflicts in the past. For instance, events in the year 2013 are a fresh reminder of the ethnic conflict that broke out between the Borana and the Burji as well as the Borana and the Gabra. A closer look at the relationship between communities in Moyale, reveals the existing effects of the interethnic animosity since communities still live in their designated streets with very minimal contact. Signs of the magnitude of the destruction of property that was experienced are still visible in the business premises that lie in ruins after being torched by members of opposing ethnic communities.
While narrating his experience of the 2013 conflict, Fr. Edward of Moyale Catholic Parish mentions that for nearly a month, Moyale remained a ghost town with nobody or activity on the streets except the deafening sound of gunfire and the cry of the victims whose loved ones had either been killed or whose houses or business premises burnt down. He recounts how the interethnic conflict even took on inter-religious dimensions when the Christians were afraid to come for worship lest they be rounded up by the enemy and killed.
Even though the interethnic confrontation has significantly reduced since 2013, it is worth noting that tension is still visible especially between historical rivals such the Borana and the Burji as well as the Borana and the Gabra. The residents express fear that this tension might become overt during seasons of heightened political activity just as it has always been since chances that politicians will take the advantage of the division to incite communities against each other are very high. Other than the ethnic tension, a new form of identity conflict is slowly on the rise between the Christians and the Muslims. The recent wave of youth radicalization being experienced in Kenya has had its fair share of effects in Moyale and indeed other regions in Marsabit County with the locals claiming that the region has become a target for recruitment by the outlawed group.
It is against this background and capability that Shalom was urgently requested with its expertise in conflict theory and management to train and equip the people in the peace-building skills in order to transform the conflict to one of enduring peace and sustainable development among the conflicting communities in Moyale. In the month of May, SCCRR entered the conflict zone imparting critical and analytical skills through training of Moyale opinion shapers on the management of identity conflicts. All the participants asked for more training among the different communities in Moyale on Conflict management focussing mainly on reducing or managing the conflict, while more importantly in the long run identifying and addressing the underlying causes; SCCRR, with the help of all our supporters worldwide is committed to facilitating the process. We cannot and should not sit idle!