The project areas include Dassanech and Nyangatom woredas from Ethiopia and Turkana County from Turkana all of which lie within the Eastern part of Karamoja Cluster. The Dassanech and Nyangatom are distinct ethnic groups with their own language, different cultures, and separate identities. The Nyangatom (also Gnangatom) live north of Dassanech and their territory stretches from the Omo River in the east to the Kibish River along the borders of South Sudan and Kenya.
The Nyangatom trace their origin to the Karamajong tribe in Uganda and speak the same language as their two neighbors from Kenya and South Sudan who claim the same descent. The Dassanech live south of the Nyangatom and occupy the northern lake shore of Turkana. Their territory extends up to the Kenyan border on both the eastern and western sides of the Omo River. The Dassanech speak a different language than their neighbors. The Dassanech and Nyangatom have historically experienced violent conflicts with each other as well as with surrounding ethnic groups, including cross- border conflicts with Turkana communities on the Kenyan side of the border. The conflicts tend to increase along borderlands between different ethnic groups where the communities come into close contact.
The Nyangatom and Dassanech woredas are amongst the 16 officially known ethnic groups in South Omo Zone, SNNPR, Southwestern Ethiopia. The Turkana people live in Turkana County, Northwestern Kenya. The Turkana, Dassanech and Nyangatom communities are predominantly pastoralists who move from place to place in search of water and pasture for their herds. Moreover, competition over fishing resources in Lake Turkana between Dassanech and Turkana people pose violent conflicts frequently. Recurrent drought and climate change coupled with degradation of resources increase the already existing conflicts resulting in loss of lives and cattle raids livestock along common borders.
To mitigate the conflicts, a project proposal was jointly designed by Peace and Development Center (PDC) and Saint Peter’s Community Network (SAPCONE) to implement a project entitled: “East Karamoja Cross- border Conflict Mitigation”. CEWARN/IGAD mobilized fund from Giz. Following this an MoU was signed between the Ethiopian and Kenya CEWERU, CEWARN, PDC and SAPCONE to implement the cross-border project agreement and define ways of working together. The project implementation period was for six months and completed accordingly in two rounds.
This report illustrates the activities of the two partners organizations in collaboration with local administrations and grass level communities from March 1, 2017- September 30, 2017.
The overall objective of the project is to contribute towards the creation of enabling environment for cross border pastoralists (Nyangatom, Turkana, and Dassanech) along the borders of Turkana County, Kenya and South Omo Zone, Ethiopia, and pursue an interdependent effort to enhance peaceful relationship among the communities.
Major Activities Completed
PDC and SAPCONE have been implementing cross-border activities since June 2015 in South Omo-Turkana Corridor. These partners received a grant from CEWARN/IGAD in February 2017 to implement the East Karamoja cross-border conflict mitigation project along South-Omo-Turkana corridor of Karamoja cluster.
PDC and SAPCONE, starting from second week of March to July 2017, implemented seven activities (for which fund is received) of the above-mentioned project. During the implementation period greater engagement of women through women peace crusade and caravan, revitalization of cross-border peace committees and structure, greater engagement of youth through youth forum, form and train cross-border peace committees, regional youth conference, joint cross-border peace gathering/caravan and lower level government officials meeting activities were conducted. This report narrates the activities performed during the given period, its achievements, challenges faced during implementation and future recommendations.
Greater Engagement of Women through Women Peace Crusade and Caravan
This activity was the first of its kind for the project and it was conducted from 19-20, March 2017 at Omorate, a capital town of Dassanech woreda. A total of 97 women – 50 participants from Turkana County and 47 participants from South Omo Zone took part on this vent. Local government representatives of both countries have also participated.
Representatives of PDC and SAPCONE sent message to participants of the event. They urged participants to break silence and come out to the public light to purify the conflict on their side and give the way forward for peace. They also emphasized on the role of women in efforts of making peace happen and enhancing peaceful interaction among communities of Dassanech and Turkana.
During this event, participants were openly and actively participated and discussed different issues. A woman from Turkana stated that conflict between Dassanech and Turkana has persisted due to lack of proper mechanism for resolving them. Participants have expressed their appreciation for organizing this for women and they expressed their complaint about lack of inclusiveness of women in the efforts of peace building and conflict management processes. They emphasized women should be recognized as a major stakeholder in the process of conflict resolution. Moreover, women have natural and inherent peace building ability that need to be tapped.
The other issue women emphasized during this discussion was about the burden of conflict on women, they said women are the part of community most affected by conflict. Due to conflict, women become head of households which leave them vulnerable for different problems. Due to these reasons the women focused on their participation in different community activities. A woman from Turkana stated said, “occurrence of women’s leadership and peace building initiatives has historically led to making a right decision.” A woman from South Omo on her side said, “women wish to participate in conflict resolution and decision making in matters that concern them and the well-being of their children……She emotionally insisted, “we are tired of burying our sons and husbands…. we suffer several times when giving births and killings!”
During this event, women from both communities have agreed to work together towards achieving peace for their community. They decided to use their culturally specific methods and their position as a mother to discourage their husband and sons from going to incite any conflict among their communities.
Revitalization of cross-border peace committees and peace structures
On 23-24, March 2017, PDC and SAPCONE conducted revitalization of cross-border peace committee and peace structures at Todonyang, in Kenya. On this event, more than 60 participants (cross-border fishing and pasture usage peace committee members) and local government officials of both sides participated.
On this meeting, major issues were raised and discussed. The first issue dealt with shortage of grazing land on Dassanech side which pose conflicts when they try to cross-border in search of grazing land in Turkana area; the second issue was related to fishing ground, theft of fishing nets and involvement of business people in the fishing activities and how to strengthen communications among cross-border peace committee members triggered for further discussion.
On this meeting, participants from Dassanech repeatedly raised about shortage of grazing land on their side as the main reason for cross-border conflict with Turkana community. The current drought has exacerbated the situation for their livestock and due to this reason, they sought a sort of understanding from Turkana counter parts. They also added that most of the time they were prohibited to use these pasturelands by the Kenyan army based in Todonyang.
The second issue discussed was conflict related to the fishing ground, which now has interference by different businessmen in the fishing market. This fishing market has escalated conflict among these communities in different ways, because of the high competition among businessmen they incite warriors by paying them to prevent communities from fishing and sending them to steal fishing nets which in turn causes conflict and increase mistrust among fishing communities. Participants has reached agreement to work together to fight against these businessmen and cross-border fishing committee members were asked by participants to work hand in hand in order to de-escalate the current conflict on the fishing ground.
Dassanech community members have raised about their elder who was killed in last year summer around Todonyang police station in Catholic mission camp. They expressed their concern that the culprit should be appeared to court to face trial for the crime and Turkana County government should bear the responsibility.
On this meeting a representative of Kenyan marine unit has revealed that nine fishing nets stolen from Dassanech by Turkana warriors were caught by marine forces and discussed with Ethiopian local officials on how to restore these fishing nets to Dassanech fisheries. Agreement was also reached to identify any stolen nets from Turkana by Dassanech so that exchange of stolen nets will be done soon in coordination with security bodies of both sides.
On the conclusion of the meeting participants has noted the need for strong engagement of local institution in the process of designing mechanism of conflict resolution for them. They also made clear that any intervention in this area should be sensitive to the situation on the ground.
Greater engagement of youth through youth fora
The forum was held at Kangaten, capital town of Nyangatom Woreda on 26 March 2017. On this event, more than 70 participants participated from Kibish, Kenya and Nyangatom woreda, Ethiopia including local officials from both countries. In this meeting, from Kenyan side, Peace Expert and Kibish District Administrator of the Turkana County Government (TCG), and Nyangatom woreda Chief Administrator and Head of Administration and Security Bureau on the Ethiopian side, attended the forum.
PDC representative welcomed and introduced participants the purpose of the event and the forum was opened by Kebede Sahile, Chief Administrator of Dassanech woreda. He welcomed them to woreda and made clear the destructive conflicts which happen between these brotherly communities who share common values, mode of life, culture and language. He stated that these violent conflicts have threatening livelihoods and undermining development in the area. He advised participants to use this opportunity to develop mechanism for strengthening peaceful relationship. Participants have expressed their concern over the tension that has been high from time to time among these communities.
A youth participant stated the following:
“Several attempts have been made in the past to end rivalry between us but failed…. They all involved the use of force. Our approach is different, our people listen to us and I am confident they will accept our messages”.
On this discussion, participants have emphasized on the issue of enhancing peaceful interaction among youth from both sides in order to calm down the current tension. They urged government bodies to coordinate and facilitate dialogues with the support of PDC and SAPCONE.
Youth participants discussed issues of rumors that triggered incidents and in order to curb this practice they agreed there is a need to strengthen information channel whereby community can exchange genuine information that stop creating tensions and confusion among these communities.
At the end of the forum, the effects of climate change on the grazing land of Nyangatom discussed. Nyangatom pastoralists have faced serious shortage of grazing land last year which caused repeated incidents in the corridor.
Form and Train Joint Cross-border Peace Committees
On 12-13, July 2017, PDC and SAPCONE have conducted a form and trained joint cross- border peace committee members at Todonyang Police station in Kenya. On this event, more than 30 participants were trained. The main objective of this activity was to build up the capacity of cross-border peace committee members so as to contribute towards the creation of enabling environment for pastoralists (Dassanech, Nyangatom and Turkana) along the borders of Ethiopia and Kenya to pursue interdependent and peaceful life.
The training was focusing on the local peace committees who were represented by customary leaders, influential community members, women, youth and local government structures who have been able to jointly engage in various peace building efforts among the conflicting communities.
The following are the relevant issues taught during the training
The joint cross-border peace committees were trained to be timely, accurate, validity of the information, reliability, verifiability and complete information among the communities in order to guide stakeholders on how to mitigate conflict by getting the right information within conflicting communities. Therefore, the training was focusing on the local peace committees who were represented by customary leaders, influential community members, women, youth and local government structures. The representatives of both groups gave emphasis on the need to work together under one structure and thereby contribute for the significant improvement in regular communication and information sharing among the community members across the border. They also underlined the importance of mutual understanding, trust and culture of working together to be created among the joint cross-border peace committee members and the rest of the communities.
In addition to their immense contribution to the peaceful coexistence of pastoralist communities across the assessment area, the joint engagement of community representatives in the area under organized joint peace committee structure is also to improve the functioning capability of local community actors to deal with conflict and insecurity in a more coordinated and established manner. They help to easily mobilize their respective communities towards peaceful settlement of conflicts through dialogue and discussion and thereby enhance local participation and decision making for the community members represented in the peace committee structures.
Dassanech, Nyangatom and Turkana Joint Cross-border Peace Gathering /Caravan
This activity was conducted from 15-17, July 2017 at Omorate, Dassanech Woreda. A total of 150 participants from both sides were selected. 75 from Turkana County and 75 participants from South Omo Zone took part on this event. On this forum, local officials from both countries participated.
The objective of this event was to strengthen the participants in communities in the area of peace building and conflict resolutions and to create awareness of these participants the need for healing reconciliation so that they will mobilize the rest of their communities for peace and joint natural resource sharing.
The pastoralist communities of Dassanech, Nyangatom and Turkana reiterated that they have been coexisted with each other for long time under the customary negotiated system of shared management of natural resources and resolving of conflicts among them pursuing traditional conflict resolution mechanisms. The primary focus on these traditional institutions were reconciliation through tradition of forgiveness, respect and transfer of resources as compensation payments pulling conflicting parties back into the kind of good and cooperative behavior that leads to harmony and productivity. They had developed particularized customary organizations that serve the joint purpose of resource management, social security and conflict resolution. However, the declining and erosion of these effective local approaches left wide space for frequent clashes and conflicts among the communities in the corridor. The frequency and intensity of resource -based conflicts have risen over the past few years as water and pasture have grown scarce.
Organize Regional Youth Conference
The conference was held at Kangaten on 1st September 2017, where more than 60 participants including local officials from both countries participated; from Kenyan side Turkana County Government peace expert, SAPCONE executive director and Kibish District Administrator, Nyangatom woreda Chief Administrator and Head of Administration & Security on the Ethiopian side, attended the conference.
PDC representative welcomed and introduced participants the purpose of the event and Mr. Fikru Etuk Administration and Security Personnel, Nyangatom Woreda welcomed the participants. He stressed the importance of peace and advised the youth to foster friendship among the Dassanech, Turkana and Nyangatom, reminding them that if severe drought affected any of them, it would be easy to approach each other for grazing rights. During this conference, different issues were discussed by participants “We are for ekisil!” was the clear message from youth. The event brought youth from two nations together at Kangaten!” remarked Meri, a kraal leader. “We should take this opportunity to make a final agreement on peace that will be witnessed by all.
The youth conference discussed that frequent and prolonged drought in the pastoralist areas scuttles and seriously destabilizes the communities. Natural resource-based conflicts especially over water and pasture during the dry periods easily escalate and become violent. The limited available ‘development’ resources in the areas are redirected towards the management of the violent conflict in order to save lives. Insecurity also means that the available resources pasture and water located in hostile areas are not used while resources located in relatively secure areas are over-utilized. Therefore, the participants agreed to share natural resources in order to avoid over grazing.
In addition, most local government institutions and traditional leaders lack the necessary capacities to deal with cross border violence. Disregard of traditional conflict mitigation institutions and lack of active community involvement further compound these problems. Most importantly, disarmament needs to be better coordinated across the border and the security of disarmed communities needs to be improved.
Joint Cross-Border Lower Level Government Officials’ Meeting
The joint cross-border meeting of local government officials of South Omo Zone of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) and Turkana County (Republic of Kenya) was held on 30th August, 2017 at Turmi in Ethiopia. In the meeting, Ethiopia and Kenya represented 20 and 12 participants respectively. The meeting drew together the zonal & local administrations from Dassanech and Nyangatom woredas, and county representatives from Turkana and local representatives of the adjacent border areas.
After a brief introduction of the meeting, the security situation at local level was reported by woreda and zone administration from Ethiopian side. The same was done in Kenyan side. Issues related with livestock theft and killing was reported as the triggering factor for the conflict between Nyangatom and Dassanech. Likewise, the Nyangatom side indicated the issue of the Kenyan local government taking part in pastoralists conflict at Kibish as the cause of the heightened tension along the border.
The officials from Ethiopia applauded that security is very important and their government have formed the basis of security for their people. In Ethiopia, the government speaks of the cardinal principle, which is to protect property and lives of people. This very important meeting culminates so many efforts between the two countries and they want to take this opportunity to thank the two nations for the commendable job of reviving the sisterhoods. It is through the same spirit that our neighboring communities should come together and deliberate on issues that are very important to them. They have a lot in common and have also noted a few differences. The moment they set aside some time, they shall try to sort out these issues that are absolutely important and they believe that they can realize peace. They have demonstrated commitment, as leaders of the region. They have accelerated their efforts to actualize and realize peace in the region because poverty, frequent drought and famine leave the region with no choice.
The lower level government officials were encouraged by the various terms people use to describe the gun: the enemy, snake, killer, wizard. These names indicate that they now realize that the gun is destructive and pastoralist communities are lagging behind in development because they insist on following the barbaric tradition of cattle rustling.
The lower level government officials recognized the presence of PDC and SAPCONE and the role they play along the corridors. They insisted that the two organizations are important along the corridor and concerned on the issues of security. The officials reiterated that several peace meetings have been conducted along the corridor and yet most of them remained ineffective. They emphasized the need to strategize how to utilize and share resources so as not to become sources of conflicts.