Annual cultural fete silences guns in banditry prone region

Traditional dancers entertain guests during last year’s Turkana Cultural Festival. This year’s event kicks off today. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The Turkana cultural festival, popularly known as 'Tobong’u Lore' which means welcome home, has been hailed for silencing guns in a region known for banditry.

The region has seen five trans-border communities: the Turkana in Kenya, Karamoja of Uganda, the Nyangatom of Ethiopia and the Toposa of South Sudan clash over water, pastures and livestock for decades.

But the annual cultural festival that kicks off tomorrow has seen the communities that share an ancestry, but are divided by national boundaries come together to celebrate a common heritage.

According to a senior security advisor in the region, Captain (Rtd) Augustine Lokwang, the cultural festival has played a major role in enhancing peace and cohesion among the communities.

“We used to hear of attacks almost on monthly basis. We are not yet there but positive steps have been made in regard to bringing the communities together,” he said.

The festival that brings together thousands of participants in a colourful display of culture cutting across national borders.

According to Lokwang, the festival has been anchored in the County Integrated Development Plan to ensure peace and development in the region is realised.

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“The cultural festival has brought social and economic integration,” he said.

The festival has seen the communities that have been fighting over natural resources for decades learn to share and open up to each other.

“The region has experienced tremendous improvement in terms infrastructure including transport and communication as well as social amenities,” said Lokwang.

Tourism executive Charles Lokiyoto said the four-day festival will attract thousands of participants from as far as Nigeria.

“We are celebrating the 5th year of Tobong’u Lore themed ‘celebrating cultural heritage for tourism, peace and regional development,’ we will showcase our culture day and night with the best performances that that the county and beyond has to offer,” he said.

He said the festival also seeks to put Turkana on the global map as the origin of mankind for its archaeological discoveries such as the Turkana Boy.

The festival is also expected to attract more investments in the county.

“We are optimistic of getting more than Sh1 billion this year,” he said.

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Turkana cultural festivalTobong’u Lore