By Protus Kipleting,
Ethnic violence can end if reconciliation ,peace and a safe political environment is practised.
Conflicts between ethnic, religious and cultural groups claim many thousands of lives every year and displace and cause suffering to millions.
It has been noticed that violence is likely to occur when groups and partially separated just like in Isiolo district in North eastern part of Kenya, various forms of violence have occurred.
Distribution of population can be the underlying condition that fosters conflict and violence.
The research herein can inform policymakers that strive to anticipate or prevent ethnic violence or political outburst.
“Psychohistory” the science of understanding how groups of individuals interact while specific concepts that Asimor developed are not necessarily valid, the idea that such a science can exist has now been demonstrated.
Many people feel that human freedom requires unpredictability, however to understand how group behavior can lead to violence is an important opportunity to intervene in critical problems of human condition.
I am hopeful that this work will help enable relief of severe problem of dislocation, suffering and tragic death that accompanies ethnic cultural and religious conflict.
This story is from a recent findings from individuals who confessed. The story begins with the journey to Isiolo town.
The wind whistles deafeningly, violently whipping burqas off women and sending men, their cheeks puffed with miraa (khat), scampering for shelter. The momentary madness that comes with every gust of wind is punctuated by the drone of motorcycle taxis, popularly known as boda, bodas, that ferry people to various destinations in this windswept, yet idyllic town smack in the middle of Kenya.
Welcome to Isiolo, the last of several towns in north and upper eastern Kenya, where the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) has been holding public hearings on human rights violations, and where sad tales are as common as the hijabs on the local women’s heads.
The hearings are a forum for victims to testify about atrocities dating from December 12,1963 to February 28, 2008.
Not far from the town centre is a poorly planned residential area called Bulapesa, and here we find a woman outside what passes for a bungalow in these parts of the world — a hur- frontier. “I have never seen the shifta you are talking about (marauding Somali bandits) in my life,” she says.
Fatuma is one of hundreds of victims who survived the Shifta “War of 1963 that dragged on for four years. Like other survivors, she lost her family and property to a conflict that, to many, seems to have been based on mere speculation. For Fatuma, all she saw and experienced was the heavy hand of the Kenyan army.
There is nothing but sand, dust and rocks on the 125-kilometer stretch of road to Garbatulla district.
A crowd of people are congregated under an acacia tree staring into nothingness in silence. Hypnotized.
Periodically, sand is kicked up in the air by strong gusts of wind that blow through the crowd, flailing burqas and scarves like flags.
The crowd stares at an elderly woman seated on the ground, her walking cane by her side. Nothing unusual… until a closer look reveals a disfigured forearm.
Woman testify through a translator.
Habika Rako was herded into a concentration camp in Garbatulla in the 1960s. Like other women who spent years in the camps, she spoke in eerie tones of the rape, the endless beatings, the starvation, and the verbal abuse she had to endure,
Her hand, she says, was deformed by a gun shot. “A bullet went through my side and exited through my right arm, dislocating the forearm,” she says.
Rako was not in pain. She did not cry as she testified. But her face seemed fallen, as if, with every word she uttered, life was drained out of her.
“I was rushed to hospital by a white man,” she continued. “The bullet was removed, but my arm was left disfigured.”
Rako then falls silent and does not speak again.
Her headscarf, revealing her curly, white hair,
The sun is now overhead and the crowd shifts, moving with the shade of the acacia tree. Around the gathering are mounds of soil and rocks, A tall, lanky man, garbed in a white fez and a black-and-white checked scarf draped on his shoulder, makes his way to the centre of the crowd. Maleto Aclan. 69, begins to speak.
Like Rako, he spent years in the concentration camps of Garbatulla. “More than 100 people were crowded into army trucks and taken to Ntaiboto from the camps. Years later, their skeletons were taken to Isiolo as evidence.” he agonises, breaking clown ;n the process. After wiping the tears off his eyes with the scarf, he continues: “This is where people were buried. This is one of the mass graves.”
The area is now being used as a recjular burial site and there is no demarcation to show that it is a graveyard. When it rains or the wind blows, there is no way to tell how deep its history runs.
The current generation has suffered. The coming generation does not have to suffer any more. Things need to be corrected if reconciliation and healing are to take place.
Fatuma spent two years in a concentration camp in Merti and her ordeal, to use her own words, was “painful”.
“I received beatings every day. All of us—women, children, and men—were all the same. We were shiftas in the eyes of our tormentors. There was no water in the camp, and life was very hard. Military personnel would remove women’s headscarves and pull us by our hair. We watched helplessly as our children were trampled on and killed. Many of the women in the camps were also raped repeatedly.”
Also in Isiolo, So-year-old Khadija Ahmed Osman recalls her ordeal. The frail woman, now bedridden, is assisted out of bed by her niece for the interview, and when she finally steadies herself, the agony begins to flow,
“They beat us at the camp.” she says. “They ripped the clothes off our backs and exposed our nakedness. They told us to kneel down and pray for our souls. And then they beat us even more; with the butts of their rifles.”
The greatest pain for her, however, was the child she lost while attempting to escape from the camp. She had strung the little boy on her back and as she ran, he fell to the ground and was trampled to death by the pursuing soldiers.
Isiolo district commissioner James Waweru says the shifta was a guerilla movement that had to be stopped, and that government intervention in the area was limited to the secessionists. Mr Waweru says the first district commissioner in the area, Mr Daudi Dabaso Wabera — a native of the area who was posted to Isiolo in 1964—was killed by the shiftas, “They thought he was pro-Kenyatta, pro-government,” he says.
In Garbatulla District, a semi-arid expanse 250 kilometres from Isiolo, a fiery bearded man shares his trauma at the camps. Mr Gobo Guyo, also 80, was aged 36 at the tune. The army came for him in his village. “All the Boranas (a Cushitic ethnic group) were rounded up. Those who couldn’t move, the sick, elderly or young, were shot. Seventeen died on the spot, and then the servicemen burnt our houses.
“Women were raped and some abducted. No one, even today, knows where they took our women, our girls. No one knows whether they are dead or still alive. The government did this to us.”
Guyo says there were four mass graves, one for each camp, in the concentration area of Garbatulla. And here those who died of starvation, disease, and other causes were buried by their fellow detainees.
All these was a result of Shifta war.The shifta war begun in 1962 where politics was taking place. Northern Kenya formed two political parties. The Northern Province People Progressive Party (NPPPP), whose key agenda is to secede from Kenya and unite with Somalia and the Northern Peoples Union Association (NPUA) whose agenda is to remain a part of Kenya.
In 1962, a referendum is held and the result is overwhelming support for secession. The colonial government chooses to ignore the results of the referendum and instead creates a seventh province of Kenya, North Eastern Province.
In 1963, the NPPPP political party representing the pro-secession side, boycotts election. The military is sent out to suppress protests in the north.
This sets out the shifta war during which local Cushitic communities (Rendille, Borana) are detained in concentration camps. An estimated 2,700 people died in the camps.
In 1967, the shifta war ends after four years of conflict and turmoil, but the repression continues. This is after Somali agreed to sign a ceasefire with Kenya. Somali was seen to fund the Shifta. Shifta was a Somali word meaning Bandit.