Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative
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Navigating Paths of Peace: A North-Rift Tale

By Rayson Lotengan

Conflict in the Northern region Counties in Kenya has reached a stalemate where peace and security have become unfeasible to attain without military intervention. Despite leaders from the region and all Pastoralist Parliamentary Groups PPG leadership having peace meetings, nothing persuasive has been done to break the conflict stalemate in this region.

Police vehicles and houses torched by bandits. Photo: Courtesy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The conflict in the North Rift Counties is believed to be caused by inter-community fighting for minimal natural resources like water, grazing lands, and raids. However, in recent times the act of raiders towards each cannot be categorized as any of the above factors but an act of tribal terrorism.

Illegal gun ownership and the lack of law enforcers in the region have made gun owners feel like heroes and impose their laws as they wish. Raids and terrorism have led to territorial claims and attempts to divide communities along tribal lines exacerbating the already fragile peace in the region.

Peace and security are the backbones of any progressive State. Without peace, there is no development. Globally, every state recruits military and intelligent personnel each year to ensure their citizens enjoy peaceful and workable territory. This includes States like the US, Russia, China, France, and Britain which employ Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) weapons to deter potential threats from foreign aggressors. These states put a lot of resources into military and intelligent personnel to ensure their countries have long-lasting peace.

Understand that State instability is not caused by external aggression but by the internal conflict within the communities. For example, the Kenya Post Violence Elections 2007 was supposed to be a lesson to Kenyan leaders and citizens. However, the North Rift conflict is at its peak, despite the lessons learned in Kenya’s 2007/2008 Post Election Violence, the current conflict in the North Rift has not received the attention it deserves. The media’s coverage has been limited and even discussions in the parliament have failed to generate significant action. When a debate about the insecurity situation in the North Rift is brought to the chambers of the parliament many legislators oftentimes leave the chambers with the reason of feeling unbothered about the hostilities.

These conflicts are more dangerous to any Nation’s stability than any threat from foreign aggressors. Imagine a scenario where the state is trying to stop terrorism from overseas while we get bandits who terrorize citizens daily. The consequences of this indifference are dire with more than 20 lives being lost every day, impacting the Nation’s economy and social fabric.

To overcome biases and ensure effective peacebuilding, it is essential to involve all affected communities and genuinely consider their perspective without tribal preferences. Some of the recommendations for sorting this perennial problem once and for all include:

Local Driven initiative

The peace initiative should be a locally driven notion supported by neutral peace institutions and the National Government. The local elders from all conflicting communities should be facilitated to drive the peace implementation process in the region because these elders are not just ordinary people but are the face of their respective communities. These are the people whom their leaders believe when they comment about boundaries, the boundary conflict is originating from these people. Therefore, if the government and any other peace-implementing partners succeed in uniting the elders to drive the peace process, it will eliminate the idea of boundary conflict which is the main factor that brings tension.

Elders’ unity will break a conflict stalemate since the peace notion will be based more on interpersonal relationships, this will pave the way for long-term peace rather than political class interventions that depend on the relationships of politicians with constituents. A personal relationship is better than focusing on the comfort zone of political leaders because what happens if it will not conform to their expectations?

An armed man spotted in the North Rift. Photo: The Standard
Strengthening of Law enforcement

Establishing and Operationalizing a Military camp and a police post in the region is essential to maintain law and order. Criminal elements exploiting the conflict must be identified and dealt with promptly as they use conflict to terrorize other communities ensuring there is no tranquillity. To identify those criminals’ the police and military must involve the elders in the investigations and that is why the elders’ unity is very paramount to the operation.

Promoting Economic Integration

Lastly, the government and other implementing partners should intently create a thriving business town that will help in bringing together the conflicting communities. Encouraging business activities and trade among different groups can foster co-existence and reduce animosity, paving the way for sustainable peace. This will also be a business destination for many local communities around the region.

The above recommendations are interdependent with each other because it’s impossible to attain peace without unity among elders which extends to the community. Effective law enforcement involving the military, police operations, patrols, and economic integration is key. The government, peace institutions, civil society, and all stakeholders must join hands to achieve this goal. Only through genuine collaboration and understanding can the North Rift break free from its conflict stalemate and pave the way for a future of lasting peace and prosperity.