Giving Peace A Sporting Chance in Northern Kenya

 

Hundreds of young warriors will set aside their differences to run a half marathon together as part of a peace event hosted by NRT.

 Warriors run in a similar NRT-supported peace marathon event in Isiolo in 2015. Photo: Jo O'Brien 

Warriors run in a similar NRT-supported peace marathon event in Isiolo in 2015. Photo: Jo O'Brien 

NRT has partnered with the County Government of Isiolo and the Danish International Development Assistance (DANIDA) to host a half marathon and peace dialogue session on the 25-26 April at the Kenya Wildlife Complex Offices in Isiolo County.

This is the first in a series of ‘sport-for-peace’ events aimed at enhancing ongoing reconciliation efforts between different ethnic groups in the region, which are being spearheaded by community conservancies. Relations between communities have been severely strained by prolonged drought and last year’s general elections.

The half marathon and dialogue session will provide an opportunity for communities to collaborate with each other, air grievances in a proactive manner, and build sustainable peace strategies with their respective conservancies.

 Warriors in the 2015 NRT peace marathon. Photo: Jo O'brien 

Warriors in the 2015 NRT peace marathon. Photo: Jo O'brien 

“Peaceful coexistence among all the communities and between people and wildlife is critical to transforming lives. The arid areas of northern Kenya are in the front-line of climate change impacts. Increasingly frequent and severe droughts place undue hardship and conflict over resources. By creating a platform and open spaces for dialogue based on common values and teamwork can we mitigate future conflict whilst promoting cohesion and partnerships”, said Tom Lalampaa, CEO of the Northern Rangelands Trust.

The event is being supported by NRT and DANIDA’s Drought and Conflict Emergency Fund – which was established in response to the conflicts that erupted in Samburu, Isiolo and Laikipia counties in 2017. The Fund focuses on building leadership and supporting the peace-building processes of community conservancies, which includes identifying and engaging peace ambassadors and hosting events.

16 community conservancies have entered teams into the half marathon. The top ten runners will be picked to form an NRT Morans Team who will represent the Northern Rangelands Trust at the upcoming 2018 Lewa Marathon, scheduled to take place on the 30th of June. They will be joined by colleagues from two other NRT regions - NRT Coast and NRT West.

“Breaking the cycle of cattle rustling through peace initiatives is a key intervention across the northern Kenya rangelands. Preventing retaliation and further deepening of the historic hatred and mistrust between ethnic groups through peace meetings, including peace-oriented sporting events, are best practice models that have enhanced the capacity of communities to address such conflicts that have resulted from prolonged and systematic drought situations. With DANIDA’s support, NRT has been able to host over 113 peace meetings involving 8,766 people have been held since the inception of NRT and peace-building continues to check volatile interethnic rivalries. It is against this backdrop that NRT and the community conservancies are successfully addressing insecurity in northern Kenya, bringing peace, reducing poaching and providing an institutional framework for conflict resolution”, said Mette Knudsen, the Danish Ambassador to Kenya.

 Josphine Ekiru with a runner in the 2015 peace marathon. Photo: Jo O'brien 

Josphine Ekiru with a runner in the 2015 peace marathon. Photo: Jo O'brien 

The event will also create an open dialogue space in which community elders who are instrumental in resolving conflicts within the communities will address the competing morans.

“Over time given the influences of modern culture and political agitation the traditional structure of dealing with wayward morans (youths) that has been eroded. Through this event and others to follow, NRT will establish traditional dialogue methods and encourage the morans, with guidance from the Elders, to develop a coherent voice that can be incorporated in the conservancy boards thus creating a platform for open discussion between the youth and elders in matters of peace, grass and conservation.  The moran team leaders will take lead in rallying their age-mates to uphold peace and provide local solutions to the problems affecting them and their community.” said Josephine Ekiru, NRT’s Peace Coordinator.