By Joyce Wamae
Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation conducted in depth research and innumerable workshops for the past five years between the two ethnic communities of Samburu and Pokot. After many decades of violent ethnic clashes between the two communities which on the surface frequently occur, or appear to, due to cattle rustling, political affiliation, and lack of law enforcement from the government side, among other factors, peace has actually began to prevail between the two communities.
“SCCRR has really contributed to restoring peace with our neighbours, the Pokot. My child is now sharing a desk with a pokot child something that has never happened. We always view them as our enemies but things have now changed and we now see them as friends.”
These were the words of Paul Leshimpiro, a nurse at Morijo Dispensary while addressing the participants at the end of a recent workshop in Morijo.
On the first encounter with the Samburu community of Morijo, Shalom noticed the negative attitudes and perceptions the Samburu has towards the Pokot. To address these prevailing negative attitudes and perceptions, SCCRR introduced training to the community with major focus on conflict paradigms, managing identity conflicts and conflict resolution among others. The community was imparted with critical and analytical skills in peacebuilding that have helped them in creating a multi-ethnic environment. However, SCCRR has continued to raise awareness in the community on the importance of inter-ethnic integration.
In the education sector, it a surprise to many especially the Samburus of Baragoi, Barsaloi and Lodungo’kwe − nearby towns − to find out that the children of both Samburu and Pokot were learning together in the same school, Morijo Primary School. There are 21 Pokot pupils studying and boarding in Morijo primary school and after closing school for holidays the parish priest of Morijo normally takes a personal initiative of taking the Pokot children back to their homes.
“I have a brother in standard four who told me that his best friend is a pokot boy and they share the same desk”, said Luciano, a resident and youth leader in Morijo. “This is a factual sign of peace being restored and enduring between the two communities,” he added.
Another achievement of peace in the light of SCCRR intervention is the formation of a community based organisation (CBO), Morijo Integrated Pastoralist Peace Program (MIPP) which has representatives from both the Pokot and the Samburu people of Morijo. They hold meetings regularly to plan for joint peace initiatives that are aimed at strengthening the peace ties among the two communities. An outcome of this is that they have agreed on stern regulations that govern the community such as: making sure that any stolen animal is returned to the owner once a complaint is issued. This has promoted accountability that is a contributing factor to positive peace.
The prevailing peace in Morijo has also seen the two communities share health services at the only dispensary in Morijo. “I have been a nurse in Morijo for over ten years and I have never seen a Pokot seek treatment in Morijo dispensary, two weeks ago I was offering clinical service to Pokot women and children,” said Paul Leshimpiro. “This I can attribute to the trainings and several integrative workshops by SCCRR.”
Reduction in Violence
Consequently, there has been a reduction in cattle rustling among the two communities which is associated to the improvement of the security in Morijo. The community at Morijo noted that there has been no recent attack in the area since the intervention by Shalom. Painot Lekirite, a “moran” (a traditional warrior) and participant in SCCRR workshop thanked Shalom for conducting workshops that transform their lives by offering them other alternatives of generating income other than raiding. He further added that most of the morans in the area are turning into farming for survival. This has also resulted to the integration of the two communities through trading of their livestock’s at the market which is an equal distance between the two communities. The Samburu trade potatoes, kales, cabbages with the Pokot and vice versa.
Shalom is committed to fostering positive peace and sustainable development in Morijo and its environs. SCCRR is in support of the collective efforts the Samburu and the Pokot in Morijo are putting into the peacebuilding process. We applaud their efforts as they exercise their freedom in exploring their integrative initiatives.
In doing so they also celebrate their diverse identities together, demonstrating how ethnicity and cultural variation can be empowering and life-giving. SHALOM will continue to talk the talk and walk the walk with our Samburu and Pokot brothers and sisters.