Collapse of the Kraal system deepens pastoralists’ vulnerability
“This article is a traditional explanation for the security troubles of Northern Kenya today. It seeks to enlighten …. “
BY AUGUSTINE LOKWANG
For 51 years, pastoralist counties of Northern Kenya have mastered a mechanism of self-preservation as counties
occupying expanses and larger swathes of ungoverned spaces considered to be high security risk by international security standards, informing most western countries’ advisories.
Historically tagged as Northern Frontier Districts (NFDS) associated with incessant cross border bloody rustling and raids, these counties have depended on (the little known about)
“kraal protection/defense concept” over the years to protect their lives, livestock and yield no single inch of their borders
to hostile neighbours. Ideally, the kraals protection/defense system devised by the natives on either side of the borders had the pure good intent of assuring the natives of safe and secure homesteads, grazing communal land and as guarantee of the integrity of their cultures. In fact, these kraals received government support with a number of Kenya Police Reservists deployed as part of what I would call “nomadic/ kraals protection force” acting also as government intelligence fillers on the ground.
Given the kraals were mostly static at areas with adequate pasture, water and strategic (enhancing security across the borders), the youthful herders from adjacent kraals would traverse the unoccupied spaces in months grazing their cows, camels and donkeys besides physically asserting their ownership of such areas against neighbours with expansionist intentions. The place of elders was pivotal in resolution of the aftermath of cross border violence, recovering lost livestock, making and building peace amongst the coexisting communities.
These kraals would normally be the subjects of disarmament operations especially when bloodier raids occur and caught the media limelight forcing the government to deploy security forces.
The border areas of these counties have recently been marked by culturally/traditionally unorthodox instabilities, consider the siege at Lorogon, daring attacks on security forces [Note the attack between Lorogon and Nakwamoru; the attack on Lokori’s DC’s vehicle between Lomelo and Lokori; and the one of a kind Baragoi and Kapedo ambush attacks that occasioned death of 42 and 21 security officers respectively.
The role of hardliner elites from the affected communities in escalation than de-escalation cannot be over emphasized. This explains why, the security risk levels in the North, have plummeted to high from medium, going by security consultants’ assessment today.
The current security situation indicates the transforming conflict relationship among the pastoralists in question.Conflict resolution experts would view the transformation not being constructive but destructive, from what has always been known as traditional rustling/raids to politically and economically driven rustling/raids engineered for non-historical reasons.
The role of hardliner elites from the affected communities in escalation than de-escalation cannot be over emphasized. This explains why, the security risk levels in the North, have plummeted to high from medium, going by security consultants’ assessment today. Should we wait this security risks level to hit the extreme states? I will say, it depends, if you are a beneficiary or the victim. Politicians must be for peace, they must encourage their constituents towards peaceful neighborliness, synergize efforts to ensure locals commit to amicable resolution of the root causes to the hostilities of the North.
Further, the government will require sounding a louder alarm against politicians assessed to be fueling hostilities, undermining and complicating the pursuit of sustainable peace. With due respect, such politicians be prosecuted
by the state.
The government must do more beyond “Operation Kapedo”, and the fact-finding missions, etc. It should arbitrate
the sticky issues the historical conflict is hinged up on. The resolution of all pre-existing root causes by exercise of
impartiality and neutrality is material in ending conflict.
A broader multi-stakeholder strategy is advisable, focusing on issues both in specific details and holistically. Enduring, and sustainable peace for Northern Kenya will only come through open, honest and structured dialogue on the ground involving the native elders supported by elites.
Most importantly, there must be substantial cross border political goodwill and government facilitation for this to materialize.
Capt. (Rtd) Augustine Lokwang, is a security consultant and a researcher.
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