Four young warriors sit around a boiling pot of sweet ‘chai’ as the early morning sun pierces through the acacia trees around them. They chat about their cattle, how eagerly they await the seasonal rains, and about their families. At first glance, there is nothing unusual about this morning ritual. An outsider would never guess that these warriors, two Samburu and two Turkana, had been locked in a vicious and deadly ethnic conflict for months. This communal ‘chai’ was the result of days of talks, negotiations and reconciliation, lead by the community conservancies and supported by the County Government and NRT peace team.
Ethnic tensions have been high Samburu and Isiolo counties over the last few months of 2015. Cattle raids, encroachment, road banditry and retaliation attacks have spiralled out of control. In the latest round of peace talks, Samburu and Turkana warriors from six conservancies were brought together for a peace meeting that lasted two days in early November 2015.
The NRT Peace team first held separate meetings with the two groups of warriors (morans), promoting non-violent conflict resoultion and discussing ways to go about it. Then, the two groups were introduced. “For eight straight hours, the morans from the two communities opened up and blamed each other” said NRT’s Peace Coordinator Josphine Ekiru. “Later that day, they started to discuss on how to finish the conflict. They each pointed out the causes, but uniformly agreed they wanted peace. At first, they were reluctant to spend the night in the same area, there was still some mistrust. But as talks went on late into the evening, all the morans agreed to spend the night at Nasuulu together, and to continue with their meeting on the following day.”
The morans came up with resolutions, among them:
- Five warrior representatives would be nominated from each conservancy, and they would take the lead on driving peace, building trust and resolving grievances.
- All agreed to move their livestock out of restricted areas, including no grazing zones in community conservancies and in National Parks.
- They will work with conservancy boards and elders to coordinate peace building
- More active involvement of women in the peace building process.
They then signed the resolution in a momentous moment that was covered by local media.
On getting women more involved in resolving ethnic conflict, Josphine said “the morans were asking if there is way women representatives can be told to stop the young ladies from praising warriors who fight and retaliate. Since it is part of the culture everyone as been ignoring it, but I think it is high time to start empowering women and involving women in the peace building process.”
After the two days talks, the NRT Peace Team followed up with the each relevant conservancy chairman, to ensure the resolutions were being implemented and supported.
“The morans recognised the conservancies as the key to peace building” said Josphine. “We now need to keep reaching out and raising awareness. Peace is a difficult and complicated process, but I believe we are all determined to make it work. This can only happen through the conservancies, as a community driven process, but I know it can work.”