The Silent Majority Speak Out for Peace in Turkana County

Residents of Kaputir Ward, Turkana County, never imagined that conflict between the Turkana and Pokot communities in Northern Kenya would escalate to the heights witnessed in recent years. Conflict between the Turkana and Pokot communities is one of the greatest threats to drought resilience for these vulnerable communities. Cross-border armed conflict over resources has increased following the severe drought ravaging parts of Northern Kenya. The desperate competition for resources has led to increased livestock theft, shootings and forced migration, which largely affects women and children.

According to government records, a total of 164,457 people have been displaced by conflicts in North Eastern Kenya – with Turkana the worst affected county. Seventy per cent of the displaced are women and children aged below 14 years. In addition to displacements, many women have also been widowed by the conflicts, further increasing their vulnerabilities to poverty and human rights abuses.

50 year old Ruth Arukudi from Kaputir Ward, Turkana County, and other women in the area are left to deal with much of the consequences of this conflict. Mama Ruth Arukudi is a member of a peace building committee comprising 10 members from the Turkana community and Pokot community, established to support inter-tribal conflict resolution and reconciliation between the two communities.

She is optimistic about the future following this meeting, “the women intra dialogue meetings held in Kaputir Ward and Lobokat ward, with representatives from both the Turkana and Pokot communities, were a real success. For a long time, men have been the ones attending the peace meetings and women are left behind. Whenever women attended the meetings with the men, they were never allowed to express themselves nor share their views openly”.

With this pilot project, Mama Ruth feels that women now have a chance to air their views and participate in the forefront of the peace building process. Moreover, she notes that women and children suffer the most whenever there is conflict in the area. “We are happy to be involved in peace activities because we understand the negative impacts of conflicts”. The majority of us here are widows or/and have lost our sons in this conflict,” she said.

There has been a serious lack of will to include women in important peace building initiatives. Women need to be involved at every stage in order to reassert the rule of law and rebuild societies. Their needs for security and justice must be addressed. The areas where women can and should play a role in the peace building process include: peace talks, conflict mediation, and all aspects of post-conflict reconstruction.

Finn Church Aid under the USAID funded Resilience Economic Growth in Arid Lands – Improving Resilience (REGAL-IR) consortium and led by Adeso, is making efforts to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of mediation efforts through strengthening local ownership and supporting the positive role of religious and traditional leaders in mediation.

This project is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Feed the Future Initiative (FtF). The contents of this story are the sole responsibility of Adeso and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.