By Paulson Erot Tadeo
After conducting more than 20 workshops in the past three years of operation in this conflict terrain, Shalom’s tireless effort bears ‘sweet fruits of peace.’ The key influential participants trained from these workshops have devised their own innovative and creative community-based mechanism to manage and resolve conflicts of the warring Turkana (of Kenya), the Nyang’atom (of Ethiopia) and the Toposa (of South Sudan) communities living in the Ilemi Triangle. The participants from Kibish, Kokuro, Koyasa and Napak came together, mobilized other duty bearers in these areas and created a platform for them to discuss on how peaceful co-existence can be created and nurtured between their community (the Turkana) and their neighbouring communities.
After deliberations, a team of 20 people made up of renowned and influential village elders, Kraal (clan) leaders, women leaders and youth leaders were appointed to spearhead the ‘peace mission.’ The team was tasked with conducting intra-community peace dialogue meetings as well as leading a peace caravan to seek peace with the Nyang’atom of South-West Ethiopia and the Toposa of South Sudan.
The team begun its work by conducting intra-communal peace dialogue meetings between the Turkana clans; the Ng’isiger and Ng’ikwaatela. These two clans had disagreements over grazing areas, especially during the seasons when some livestock are sick of CCPP (Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia; a highly contagious infectious disease of goats) and CBPP (Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia; an infectious disease of lungs in cattle). There was also an issue that some members of Ng’isiger clan were ‘peace spoilers’ during peaceful periods between the Turkana and their neighbours. After a two day peace meeting held in Kibish and Lokamarinyang’, the two clans agreed on the following:
- The members of the Ng’isiger clan should stop attacking the neighbouring communities during peaceful periods. The members of both clans were asked to nurture and maintain peace with their neighbouring communities whenever such ‘rear’ opportunity emerges;
- The sick livestock from both clans should not be mixed with other healthy livestock to avoid the spread of the contagious diseases. Instead, the owners should seek veterinary services to treat their sick animals.
After sorting out internal disputes, the team embarked on leading a peace caravan to Kang’aten, Burme and Kakuta areas in Ethiopia to seek peace with the Nyang’atom community. The renowned key influential stakeholders of the two communities were in attendance including government officials from both Kenya and Ethiopia. The Nyang’atom community appreciated the effort by the Turkana community to seek peace with them after many years of violent conflicts that had resulted to displacements of hundreds of people, disruption of businesses, lose of many lives and livestock. Three Bulls, six goats and six sheep were slaughtered to mark the peace ceremony in Kang’aten (Ethiopia) and later in Kibish (Kenya).
After peace dialogue and deliberations that took five days, the two communities drew the following resolutions:
- Agreed to cease the cycle of attacks and counter-attacks. To curb this, ‘painful’ sanctions were put in place. If a person is killed on either side, the offender has to compensate the family of the victim with herds of livestock (If a male person is killed, the offender is to pay 200 goats or 50 cows while if a female person is killed 250 goats or 100 cows are paid);
- Agreed to share both pasture and water since these are the two vital resources that always make them fight. The Turkana side has vast land with ‘quality grass’ while the Nyang’atom side is blessed with water, specifically from river Nakuwa (river Kibish);
- They also agreed that if one cow is stolen on either side, the offender or his family is supposed to pay 3 cows as compensation;
- They all agreed to conduct another peace caravan to seek peace with the Toposa community of South Sudan and discuss with them on how the three communities can live in peace;
- They appointed a committee made up of 30 members that will spearhead the implementation of the agreement drawn; 15 members from each community.
To confirm the existence of peace in this area, SCCRR’s team conducted a two day workshop in Kibish where 15 renowned, respected and influential members of the Nyang’atom community were in attendance including the chief of Kakuta. This is the very first time ever the members of Nyang’atom community sat in the same room, side-by-side with their Turkana counterparts in a Shalom’s facilitated meeting, leave alone just crossing over to the Turkana side. Currently, there are a lot of members of the Nyang’atom community in Kibish who came to visit their relatives and friends as well as to do business with the members of the Turkana community. At night, as a platform to nurture peace and harmony, the two communities jointly perform a traditional ceremonial dance called ‘Edong’a’ where both men and women from the two communities freely mingle and interact with each other.
Interestingly, both the members of two communities are now crossing river Nakuwa, previously labelled as the ‘the valley of death.’ The SCCRR’s team also went to the famous river where they met the Nyang’atom women crossing the river into the side of Turkana community to cut grass for constructing their houses. They did this without being accompanied or escorted by gunmen as it used to be in the previous years. Moreover, the herdsmen (warriors) from both the two communities, who were former ‘enemies’ were grazing their livestock together in the Turkana side (in Kenya) as well as drove them to the water points in the Nyang’atom side (in Ethiopia).
As discussed herein, the Shalom’s trained participants have, therefore, become ‘agents’, ‘cultivators’, ‘nurturers’ and ‘promoters’ of peace in their own communities. Shalom is, therefore, committed and dedicated with its engagement with key influential community leaders in conflict-prone areas to enhance their peacebuilding skills and capacities so that they can contribute in the long-term solutions to the various conflicts faced by their respective communities.