Understanding pastoralist conflicts and insecurity in Kenya

2015-01-12 09:23:17 Turkanaguardian

Understanding pastoralist conflicts and insecurity in Kenya. I am conscious of the fact that many writers or researchers have written widely about this subject.


Understanding pastoralist conflicts and insecurity in Kenya

Understanding pastoralist conflicts and insecurity in Kenya

I am conscious of the fact that many writers or researchers have written widely about this subject.
However, much of that work is superficial or too academic than local and pinned down socio-cultural specifics that would objectively and directly establish local conflict and security problems/drivers and their corresponding local solutions to prevent/mitigate or to de-escalate perpetual conflict whose peak manifestations have been the Baragoi (Samburu), and Kapedo/ Kakong’u (Turkana), brazen bandit attacks in northern Kenya.
Other related and in similar context would be the Pokomo-Orma violent conflict of August 2012 whose epicentre was Reketa area of Tarassa, notably one party (The Orma) manifestly presented identical features commonplace in
Northern Kenya, associated with raids, rustling, banditry, that contextualize to be characteristically quasi-pastoral conflict/insecurity.
The problem we have had has been missed real and key local issues/problems and drivers of pastoralist conflict/insecurity. I would say the problem of missed real local issues has been historical. It began with the first cluster of researchers who collected “primary data” on conflict/insecurity issues in urban centres of these counties, towns such as Maralal, Kapenguria, Marigat, Isiolo, Marsabit, Lodwar to base their understanding of conflict and security challenges of those pastoralist counties.
All other follow on researchers/scholars on this subject area of research have been regurgitating academic findings influenced by the work of the first cluster of scholars/researchers. Therefore, data on this conflict has been erratic or
misrepresentation of the local issues in one way or another and demands historical review.
Authentic, quality, unbiased and people-centred primary data exists in areas beyond pastoral towns. I say that
because most towns essentially represent to large extent opinionated elites fanning the conflict, and the towns are he places where elites live in these counties.ç
My strongest opinion in this article is that objective perspectives/accounts of the key drivers of pastoral conflict/insecurity is with the kraal elders, the herders, women and children directly affected by the violence and hostilities associated with the bloody raids, banditry and cattle rustling.
Elites, whom most researchers mostly target to participate in their field research as questionnaires respondents,focus groups discussants and key informants are only but wrong place wrong incidents victims (when caught in raids) or the indirectly affected by the effects of raids/banditry.
Most researchers have not effectively worked hard to reach or have had difficulty to access because of the conflict/insecurity itself, the rugged, remote, difficult, inaccessible, and reserve areas these kraals are essentially located. As such, most field researchers on conflict/insecurity terminate in the said urban centres, and the correct perspective are
never captured in the final findings which would normally be presented as expert position on the pastoral conflict/security.
It is therefore my conviction, that enabling fellow practicing security professionals better understand pastoralist conflict and insecurity through writing local and traditional dynamics beyond commonplace casual/superficial mentioning of terms such as raids, rustling,banditry, etc. will provide them an indepth understanding of the conflict to enable them facilitate sound decision making by those who rely on their advice to make business, organizational decisions.
As an example,

I will endeavour to split up and comprehensively discuss the term “Raid” into a conduit chain of
parties (Raiding parties, raiding parties patrol bases/launching pads, livestock transporters from the pastoralist areas,
the livestock dealers, the ready buyers/market, the high status facilitators, etc.), that will illustrate the complex and geographically spanning conflict and insecurity challenges of pastoralist people and counties, indicating to you how local and external layers of conflict drivers reinforce each other and make conflict/insecurity intractable.

I certainly trust that providing you such comprehensive knowledge on the said dynamics will be extremely helpful
in the course of you discharging your security advisory and other conflict and security-related roles and responsibilities in the pastoralist counties/areas of your interest.
Augustine Lokwang, Capt(Rtd) is a security consultant and researcher.

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Collapse of the Kraal system deepens pastoralists’ vulnerability

2014-12-09 16:32:35 Turkanaguardian


“This article is a traditional explanation for the security troubles of Northern Kenya today. It seeks to enlighten …. “

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.
december-7_2These 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 


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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