Peace by all means: Women crusaders in northern Kenya make the search for peace personal

News Mon, 04/25/2016 - 09:43 Share

Women crusaders from the communities of Nawuiyapong in West Pokot County and Lorengippi in Turkana County , Nothern Kenya | Photo by IOM Kenya

The Lorengippi - Nawuiyapong pastoralists migration corridor in Northwestern Kenya has been a platform of intense conflict pitting the Pokot and Turkana communities against one another in a violent and often fatal resource-based competition. Women from the communities of Nawuiyapong in West Pokot County and Lorengippi in Turkana County have come out strongly to advocate for peace, in light of recurrent conflict.

 

Popularly referred to as the women crusaders, these women have been exemplary in pushing men (elders and youth-warriors) into committing themselves to resolutions reached during peace dialogues.

 

To emphasize their seriousness, the women have now taken an initiative to attend meetings between the community elders, so as to exert pressure on the elders towards making peaceful resolutions.  Furthermore, in contrast to the practice among pastoralist communities where women have in the past motivated young men to participate in raids, the women crusaders are now acting as change agents and discouraging their young men from such activities.

 

A recent peace dialogue session between the two communities took an interesting perspective when the peace crusaders threatened to burry what they call “tools of birth”, such as razor blades, breast milk among other items, as a curse to young men who are not committed to peace and reconciliation along the Lorengippi - Nawuiyapong corridor. Such a curse is culturally dreaded, as the cursed lot would be killed during raids or loses all the cattle, considered valuable assets, they try to protect.

 

IOM is supporting the communities by facilitating peace meetings and dialogues by bringing together kraal elders and women caravan from Pokot north (Nawuiyapong) and Loima (Lorengippi), with the aim of arriving at a peace accord in the border at Loiya.

 

Concerned about persistent insecurity arising from cattle rustling which has led to loss of lives, destruction of property and loss of livelihoods, displacement of persons, disruption of education, health and negative image of the communities undermining development of the region, Kraal elders from Pokot, Tepeth and Turkana communities of Kenya and Uganda met on the 27 June 2014, on security, peace building and conflict prevention meeting and resolved to: visit affected areas and appeal for calm, peaceful co-existence and call for a stop on further hostilities and regrouping of armed youth; facilitate the sharing of community resources by establishing a common market at their border; that families displaced by conflict along the migration corridor resettle back and jointly graze their livestock; request the government of Kenya to rehabilitate the much neglected road that connects the two communities; identify and name peace spoilers and hand them over to the government and initiatiate structures and processes for a comprehensive peace accord.

 

 

The resource based conflict in northern Kenya has been worsened by diminishing pasture and water resources, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, disputes over land and ethnic boundaries, the absence of adequate state security, and the commercialization of cattle rustling.

 

There is a state of helplessness amongst the pastoralist households, which has led their youth to turn to violent means. Youths from these communities partake in cattle raids against neighboring communities. Cattle raids have been attributed to various factors such as lack of education, unemployment and the cultural obligation for young men to partake in the cattle raids. Acquiring cattle during such raids has for long been considered a sure way of enhancing the young men’s status in society.