The Forum

A Response to Ekal Imana: Past Mistakes of the Turkanas and Lessons to be Learned

By Immanuel Lokwei,

I think that of late, like the last ten years or so, the Pokots have had an upper hand both militarily and diplomatically. I think you [Mr. Imana] are quite right that this ethnic fighting has been unidirectional, “starts from Pokot and ends in Turkana.” But let us ask ourselves, why have the Turkanas been less responsive? Is it because they chose the Way of Peace and Life or is it because their weakened states, both material and psychological, cannot afford them strength and means to pay back their enemies their due?

I think you mentioned that the Turkanas of the last decades always forgave Pokots whenever they came begging for reconciliation and peace. Those Turkanas always had their hands open for negotiation. These acts are remarkable and I believe they happened. I believe Pokots and Turkanas have had many short-lived peace treaties. But when the Pokots came to ask for reconciliation, they did not really see Turkanas as kind, loving, forgiving and peaceful neighbors but rather as gullible enemies. Can we say the Turkanas of this time, those who’ve been weakened, are the same both in their capacity to forgive and negotiate as their ancestors of the last decades?

If the Pokots always tricked Turkanas to negotiation tables only to eat their words, what can explain their perspectives on Turkanas except that the Turkanas are unperceptive and short-term goal oriented? The Turkanas of the last decades might have really meant genuine peace but in the eyes of Pokots they were just gullible, pathetic beings.

I think the mistake that the Turkanas of the last decades made was being overly open to “peace” in the sense of short-term ceasefires. Peace must be earned. You only make peace with partners who are themselves also looking for peace. And we are not saying that the Pokots do not know or want peace. They do, but a different kind of peace, and they have attached a desire for domination to it. The mistake that the Turkanas of the last decade committed was never really understanding what kinds of people they were so willing to be in the same pack with and share peace-ties. Since the Turkanas of the last decades were so genuinely into peace, they should have first enlightened the Pokots on the kind of peace they sought. They should have educated the Pokots, freed them from their “ignorance” about the value of long-lasting and bilateral peace, a mutual rapport coexistence.

Enlightenment does not happen on negotiation tables, it is a much longer process than just sitting at the table and drafting biased and ambiguous peace treaties. The mistake that the Turkanas of the last decades made was therefore this: rushing into peace talks without ascertaining that there existed a commonly understood concept of peace between them and the Pokots.

And what can we advice the weakened Turkanas of this time? That they should go for peaceful negotiation? Well, this is not an option anymore since as you said Pokots do not want this kind of peace. And even if these Turkanas might attempt to negotiate, do you think the clever Pokots will themselves fall for the gullible-trap? And even if some of the Pokots would be gullible, will this approach to peace not be the same kind of mistake that the Turkanas of the last decades committed (rushing into peaceful coexistence without really a clear understanding)?

The weakened Turkanas of this time have one option left, which is to enlighten the Pokots. Otherwise, in the future, when the Turkanas gather some strength, while continuing to face persistent attack from the Pokots, the Turkanas will be over-tempted to pay back their debts. And the circle of violence and revenge will go on.

I speak as a victimized Turkana. So the change has to start at home not with the Pokots even if it seems point-blank that they are the oppressors. Furthermore, if I go to them, I go as an enemy. But if I approach and reproach the Turkanas, I come as a brother and a tribesman.

But the big task ahead of us is how to enlighten the Pokots and how to be courageous even though they seem not to want peace. Their not wanting peace is involuntary and therefore we should not give up.

One thought on “A Response to Ekal Imana: Past Mistakes of the Turkanas and Lessons to be Learned

  1. as a pokot, we do want peace as much as you do, but first we should respect each other’s boundaries and grazing fields. Most pokot are good people. How many Turkanas live in west pokot? They are so many. Go to kapenguria at a place called aramaket and kacheliba the majority of the population there is the Turkana. I have not heard of any pokot living and doing business in lodwarexcept government employees. I occasionaly visit Kainuk but the atmosphere there is always tense. Let us make peace together and stop blame game. Remember we have lost a number of people and livestock in areas such as turkwel,nasolot,sarmach ,orwa,amolem,masol and amaler.

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