North Kenya takes a leap towards peace as tribes meet in Turkana

The political leaders of the Turkana and Pokot tribes met in historical peace talks in North Kenya on Friday January 30th. The leaders were united for the first time to negotiate 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 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 Kenyan media, at least 12 people have died in the attacks on the Kitale–Lodwar road during recent months.

Besides road safety, those present at the meeting agreed to make a plan to build more schools in the area. The low education levels and lack of study opportunities are some of the reasons fueling the continuing violence in Turkana and Pokot.

Violence a growing problem in North Kenya

Finding a solution to the conflict is an urgent matter, since violence in the area is growing. In January alone, 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. Towards Peace

FCA, who is implementing the peace component of the larger Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Improving Resilience in Kenya (REGAL-IR) project, funded by USAID, is playing an important role in peace-building work in North Kenya. Prior to this meeting, FCA had 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.

Attempts have been made before to organize similar peace meetings, but these have failed either due to the lack of participants or general distrust.

This time FCA supported the Catholic Church to call the meeting to gather the participants. In the meeting itself, the FCA took a back seat, working as a secretary and providing technical support to the mediator, Bishob Korir.

“It is vital to get all the donors and organizations behind the peace process of North Kenya. FCA is proceeding to the next phase with confidence. The preparations have already started”, says Jokivuori.

Text: Adapted from Satu Helin

This activity is supported under the Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands –Improving Resilience (REGAL-IR) project implemented by Adeso and its partners and supported by the generous support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Feed the Future (FtF) initiative. The contents of this story are the sole responsibility of FCA and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.