By Losuru Lobuin Christopher,
The first thing your eyes meet is small thorny bushes, acacia and dry dusty winds. A day does not end without the ears appreciating the gun shots, the hands touching the corpses this is only possible if you are not among the victims, feelings for losing loved ones is part and parcel of the lifestyle among the inhabitants in this side of the world. Pastoralists’ communities share common problems, environmental problems that most of them don’t know the cause. The human suffering here is due to the investment the grand parents left; hatred is the stepping-stone to survival. Young children are meant to understand the neighboring ethnic communities are enemies. With the world food program, NGOs such as Red Cross Society, World Vision, Oxfam and USAID have tried to alleviate human suffering by sinking bore holes, work for food program have all been employed to reduce poverty and hunger.
Internally, Kenyan pastoralist communities include, The Turkana, The Pokot, The Samburu, The Rendille, The Borana and The Gabbra. The problems facing these ethnic communities are common and poor representation by the political heavy weights that have tasked to lead resorting to selfishly meeting their own needs. The civilians have therefore turned their hunger to the neighboring communities-Increased cross boarder conflicts. In trying to understand the lives of these people one fact remains, THE SOLUTION LIES WITH THE LOCAL PEOPLE.
War is expensive. It is worsened by the proliferation of small arms in the contemporary developing nations. Human beings are aggressive by nature and this is one reason why they keep on engaging themselves in hostile contention by means of armed conflicts. Waging wars is as simple as setting fire in grassland. It begins with a spark then spreads slowly with winds carrying along with the flares of fire. Old men declare war but it is the youth who will fight and die. For how long will this continue? Should we cry to wet acres of land with our tears to let the dog out of our neighborhood? Taking my own home village as a case study for these conflicts, Lorogon village where I grew up is adjacent to the current source of conflict between the Turkana and the Pokot ethnic communities. Turkwel gorge attracted human habitation because of the sufficient water supply by River Turkwel. It stretches into two National Reserves-Turkana South and Nasolot National reserves. The capacity of Turkwel to carry a large population was contributed by the construction of the Turkwel dam that was directed to:
v Generate Hydro Electric power
v Provide water domestic and irrigation
v Provide a fishing site
v To employ local community
v Generate income through tourism
With the rise of the population, the resource base reduced and this later led to conflicts over the following; Pasture/ grazing fields, water points and land. The first gun raid that I experienced at my very young age was conducted in 1990s which claimed a life of a village elder with his wife sustaining bullet wounds by her shoulders. What transpired later was the arming of the locals in fear of more attacks. The origin of the guns was a dream. I did not bother asking why and how people acquired the firearms from.
This ethnicity for over the 20 years I have lived is caused by the following factors:
I. Instant cultural gratification, a desire to own large herds of cattle
II. Territorial disputes/land ownership for instance Turkwel
III. Fight over Natural resources; R. Turkwel, R. Kerio, R. Omo, Grazing fields
IV. Political internal struggles for the fight of votes
V. Discontent/unfulfilled promises examples Irrigation scheme at Lorogon, Fishing and employment
VI. Social amenities schools, health facilities, churches, artifacts
VII. Poverty and hunger
VIII. Proliferation of small arms e.g. AK 47
IX. Treatment of minorities-Orphans, widows and the physically and mentally challenged
The global climatic change which is severely affecting the developing nations is another great challenge of the recent years. Grass fields and vegetation have reduced, water points have shrunk and rivers have dried up. This translates to more conflicts. The government and NGOs efforts to alleviate suffering among these ethnic communities have never gone close to helping but instead almost withdrawing their support in what they take as the conflict to be culturally rooted in the blood of these warring ethnic communities. Some of the interventions also included the Kenya Electricity Generating company giving some social benefits to the locals around Turkwel to encourage peaceful coexistence. Among the services offered; Transport to the nearby Kitale town for shopping, two scholarships chances yearly to the bright needy children from both communities, water supply to Lorogon village (Turkana) and Electrification of Riting primary school (Pokot). With all these interventions, political insanity in the name of winning votes has turned the entire Turkwel a new battle field.
In my first article titled the “Underlying tension at Turkwel” to the focus for African issues magazine, I stated out the following as the possible solutions to end this conflict:
- Employing alternative sources of income, agriculture-irrigation, business enterprises, bee keeping, poultry keeping, Fishing
- Disarmament and closure of certain mobility corridors that pose security threats
- Involving the local people in peace forums
- Peace keeping through sports to nurture their talents
- Beefing up security along the boarders
- Starting up vulnerable fund for the orphans and the needy
- Use of animal identification marks-tattooing, ear notching
- Proper utilization, equal allocation and distribution of natural resources available for instance the Turkwel power station for employment, revenue from the national reserves should benefit the locals directly
- Peace awareness-guiding and counseling and church active participation in peace matters
- Provision of animal commercial feeds to reduce pressure on the grazing fields
- Peace steering committees form warring ethnic communities to be charged with the responsibility of collective security.
- Creation of an orphanage to cater for the needs of the minorities
- Water reservoirs e.g water pans and dams to harvest rain waters.
- Improvement of infrastructure both communications and roads.
- Decentralization of local industries, animal products industries
- Improvement of social amenities
Over a thousand lives have been lost only at Lorogon with a population of less than a thousand people currently, creation of internally displaced persons, loss of property worth millions and it continues to happen despite efforts to alleviate the human suffering.
Having been reported as the first climate change conflict, the Merile from Ethiopia in pursuit of the waters of lake Turkana that have receded south into Kenya. This is a problem that can be solved amicably should the two nations regret drying one of the largest desert lakes South of Sahara. Lake Turkana has shrunk in recent years because of the increased evaporation rates from higher temperatures and steady reduction in the flow of river Omo due to unreliable rainfall, increased diversion of water for irrigation and the upstream damming Ethiopian Projects. Increase in the cross boarder raids is claiming lives and loss of livelihoods over reducing resource base is the resultant force.
There are efforts that are geared towards bringing a sustainable development and In trying to meet the Millenium Development goals such as ending poverty and hunger, the Kenyan government currently signed an agreement with Israel to start an irrigation scheme at Todonyang in Turkana, there is the construction of Badassa dam at Marsabit to solve the shortage of water among other pending projects like the Turkwel Airport project that is aimed at opening the remote areas/ ASALs regions National parks and national reserve as tourist attraction hot points-The Sibiloi National Park, South of L. Turkana, Marsabit National Reserve on the Eastern side of Sibiloi, Turkana south national reserve and the Nasolot National Reserve with a diversity in wildlife. I strongly believe little has been done and much can be done. John Maxwell’s words in the book from success to significance “You can not know how much you can do until you do everything to find out.” The future is flexible.
(Congratulations to Losuru Lobuin Chris., NOMADS’ PEACE PROJECT FIRST PLACE AWARDEE)