Turkana and Samburu Peace initiative ahead of polls
The community-based organisation called Shades of Hope hosted a peace camp for youths drawn from the Turkana and Samburu communities at Loikas Primary School, about two kilometres from Maralal town where more than 400 youths were circumcised together to show solidarity between the two communities.
“Usually the hostility between the two communities peak whenever elections approach. We felt there was need to do something to remind people who live in this area that they are brothers and sisters and the animosity is not necessary,” says Fred Kirago, councilor Maralal town.
The gathering at Loikas was great for the two communities because it was the first time each was crossing the Maralal-Baragoi-Loiyangalani road. To a casual observer, the road, which splits Baragoi trading centre into two halves, is an ordinary pathway. But to the members of the two communities, it is a demarcation — the line between life and death. The road separates members of the Samburu and Turkana communities with each occupying the opposite side. Other communities such as the Pokot, Kikuyu and even the Luo can also be found in Baragoi, but they are the minority.
Kirago says that besides cattle rustling, which is the known cause of feuds between the Samburu and Turkana, another underlying cause of tension between the two communities is the feeling by the Turkana that the Samburu despise them because of their culture.
“The Samburu circumcise their male, while the Turkana don’t and the latter feel they are looked down upon because of their culture. We felt there was need for a peace initiative that addresses these feelings. That is how we mooted the idea of an annual camp where youths from both communities come together to learn,” says Kirago.
The last gathering at Loikas climaxed at a ceremony where 400 youths aged between 14 and 24 and drawn from various communities in Samburu and Turkana counties were circumcised together to signify peace and unity between the communities.
The massacre of 42 police officers at Suguta Valley, which captured national attention for close to one month, happened as police units were preparing an operation to reclaim an estimated 450 Samburu livestock stolen by Turkana raiders in October last year.
Cattle raids between the two communities are common, but hostility between the two has been known to peak during elections. Kirago admits that and says politicians who are keen to keep their voting blocks intact usually ignite the tension.
“It’s not good for politicians to incite violence because we all should strive for peace. We hope this initiative will help sort some of the issues because some of our lessons are aimed at ending the macho-culture, which glorifies moranism and cattle theft,” says Kirago.
Conflicts over resources are exacerbated by drought are common in northern parts of the country. Besides rampant malnutrition, desperate competition for pasture and water has led to increased livestock theft. During dry periods, groups usually move more frequently, making themselves more vulnerable to attack.
The 400 trainees from the two communities will have a responsibility of preaching peace and reconciliation to their respective communities and ensure that elections are held peacefully.