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Involve youth and women in search for lasting peace

OPINION
By Mohamed Guleid | April 13th 2021

Kenya Association of Women in Tourism(KAWT) partner members SBM Bank Head of Women and Youth Banking Margaret Kimani(left) and ITC She Trades National Coordinator Kenya Phyllis Mwangi and 6 year- old Zaria Wangari ready to plant a tree seedling at the Karura Forest to mark the beginning of 10 years Anniversary celebrations.[ Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

During the Easter weekend, I visited sections of Isiolo and Garissa counties to understand why the conflict there has become the order of the day between the Borana and the Somali communities that have a lot in common. They share boundaries, pasture, water, and depend on each other for livelihood.

The two communities also share the Islamic faith. As I drove through the rough terrain, I remembered the Good Friday agreement between the British and the Irish governments in 1998. Tony Blair, credited for brokering this accord later in his memoir ‘My Journey’, observed that in conflict, ‘little things matter’. I needed to observe the little things that are likely to tilt the balance towards peace and prosperity between the Somali and the Borana.

My journey started with meeting Borana elders in Kinna, a growing and increasingly important trading centre where the local Borana community is fast learning to diversify its livelihood by converting the vast rangelands normally used for grazing livestock to irrigation land in order to increase food security for the community. The Borana are a very organised group. The community has a structure of governance guided by the Dedha customary management of community land, and elders have a grip on community issues, including politics.

The discussions with Borana elders made me understand that generally, the issues driving conflict touch on people’s livelihoods and land ownership. But in the midst of this, the exacerbation of conflict is increased by small issues like an incidental encounter between local young ‘morans’, who sometimes disagree over livestock that has strayed into the neighbouring herds.

The trip to the Garissa side revealed similar sentiments. The elders there are also organised even though the youth seem to be increasingly demanding to be heard. The desire for peace was equally obvious. However, the youth and women are not fully involved in the efforts to find peace. On the sidelines, I managed to discuss with the youth and women to understand their views.

The women I spoke to mentioned that they are important stakeholders in the peace issues. After all, in the event of casualties, they are the most affected because they are left to take care of the kids or the wounded. From the colonial days, records shows that British officers who managed security in that region did a far much better job than the Kenya government.

Records show the District Commissioner had the data he needed at the time, including the demographics, livestock numbers, and owners. They also understood the population better because they profiled people they suspected to be trouble makers and often preempted their activities. We have a lot to learn from our rich history.

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Mr Guleid is CEO, Frontier Counties Development [email protected] 

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