The political leaders of the Turkana and Pokot tribes have met in historical peace talks in North Kenya. The leaders were united for the first time to negotiate the ways to reach peace.
Dry, deserted lands in the north near the borders of Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan are the most unstable parts of Kenya, mostly because of disputes over land use, cattle-rustling and the increasing amount of automatic weapons. For young men, the cattle-rustling is a rite towards adulthood. Being a fighter is a legitimate career option.
Mika Jokivuori, a country manager of Finn Church Aid (FCA), describes the Friday’s peace talks as a first step towards lasting peace in Northern Kenya.
“In the meeting the tribes agreed on several concrete things they would do together. For example, they decided to increase the security of the Kitale–Lodwar road by cutting the roadside bushes so that armed groups cannot hide by the road and rob the passing cars and travelers”, Jokivuori reports from Nairobi.
According to the Kenyan media, at least 12 people have died in the attacks on the Kitale–Lodwar road during recent months.
Besides road safety, the attendants of the meeting agreed to make a plan to build more schools in the area. The low education level and lack of study opportunities is one of the reasons for the continuing violence in Turkana and Pokot.
Violence a growing problem in North Kenya
Finding a solution to the conflict is an urgent question, since the violence in the area is growing. As recently as January, 16 people were killed in a fight in Turkana and Pokot area.
A Turkana MP, Joyce Lomanikor, demanded tougher measures by the Kenyan government to solve the conflict.
“Insecurity cases have increased numbers of widows, orphans and incapacitated people and children who are unable to pursue education because their parents have been killed,” she said, according to the Kenyan Standard Media newspaper.
She also noted that a number of development projects in these counties had stalled due to fear of insecurity and pointed out that the problem should be adequately addressed to enable development.
The vital role of FCA
The FCA plays an important role in the peace-building work in North Kenya. It has negotiated with both tribes in advance and cleared the way for the peace talks. It also cooperates with influential bishops in the area who play a key role in achieving peace.
There have been attempts to organise similar peace meetings before, but these have failed either due to the lack of participants or general distrust.
This time FCA supported the Catholic Church that called the meeting to gather the participants. In the meeting itself the FCA work as a secretary and as a technical support for the mediator, Bishob Korir.
“It is vital to get all the donors and organisations behind the peace process of North Kenya. FCA is proceeding to the next phase with confidence. The preparations have already started”, says Jokivuori.
Text: Satu Helin
Finn Church Aid (FCA) is implementing the peace component of a larger program “Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Improving Resilience” (REGAL-IR) by the consortium led by ADESO, African Development Solutions, and funded by USAID.