Jobs for youth in troubled areas sure recipe for peace

Runners from seven warring sides from Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Baringo, Laikipia, Isiolo, Marsabit and Meru countiesconverged at the eastern bank of Ewaso Nyiro River to participate in half marathon organised by Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT) yesterday. [Photo: Ali Abdi]

Many have speculated about reasons that have kept the youth of regions like those in the volatile Trans Mara, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Baringo in a constant cycle of violence characterised by cattle rustling and ethnic tension.

This speculation is not unfounded, for answers to the problems facing such regions have proved to be elusive, especially in the midst of the unwavering presence of poverty, and perhaps we should start asking ourselves whether our apparent inability to solve the problem adequately arises from our failure to correctly link cause and effect so as to get to the root.

The root cause

Sporadic violence within such regions have been occurring and recurring over a long period of time, with the blame often shifting from cross-border conflicts with neighbouring communities, to cultural factors that seemingly perpetuate a cattle-rustling culture, then to economic and political factors which have led to the commercialisation and politicization of violence.

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The problem has often proven to be complex, and as every layer of complexity is unravelled, another falls in its place in this intricate web that has made many actors to scratch their heads at this mind-boggling and mutating problem.

This notwithstanding, the intervention by the government time and again in these regions - security forces have often been deployed to the region and its environs time and again, and as soon as another disarmament exercise is complete, another incident of clashes occurs. It is a perpetual cycle.

All this while, it is the youth of such regions who find themselves at the centre of this violence, both as victims and perpetrators, and this is at the expense of their socio-economic development. The almost constant presence of violence has caused the region to remain largely undeveloped as many other regions in the country are rising up. The per capita income in these regions remains the lowest in the country.

Interestingly, the cultural component of the violence therein has been extensively studied. Historians and scholars have been asking themselves this question; Could the cultural value attached to cattle and land have created a glass ceiling for the youth of that area so that their aspirations revolve around acquiring as much of these two commodities as they possibly can and by any means possible?

What's more, is it coincidental that many cattle-rustling cases occur at a time when the young men in the region are looking for brides to marry? Is it the pressure that these young men with no source of income face in attempts to raise bride price for their soon-to be wives that is driving them to engage in criminal acts.

So sorry state

Isn't it disheartening to say that the violence that often spills over to neighbouring regions with different agricultural practices creates animosity between a people with diverse culture who would have otherwise be engaging in gainful trade for the benefit of their communities?

Compounding this apparent cultural problem are the actions and influence of other actors with self-serving interests.

Arguably, there are people with political and business interests in the region that seem to have taken advantage of the context of the violence, cultural or otherwise, to progressively commercialise an already unfortunate situation and make it worse by first facilitating the proliferation of arms to the youth and later providing access to a ready market for the stolen cattle and loot.

What is the relationship between the increasing demand for meat in our urban areas? Is it possible that the cash earned from such transactions also provides the means for these youth to get access to guns and other lethal weapons that enable them to keep the cycle of violence alive?

What eventually happens to these young people whose communities remain undeveloped or underdeveloped because of the recurrence of violence in their regions?

Furthermore, what can be done to quell these conflicts so that finally, such regions can have an environment conducive enough to attract investors who would actually create real opportunities for these youth so that they can put down their guns for good and take up opportunities that will empower them socially and economically?

Mr Mokamba comments on social issues

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