Michael Gichia


“Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in Turkana, Marsabit and Wajir Districts in Kenya”


Executive Summary

This is a vast area where its people are pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. In general the region is in the North of Kenya; in the northwest, the Turkana districts located west of Lake Turkana, and to the east of Lake Turkana, Marsabit and Wajir Districts, extending to the Somali border. Included in this geographical conflict environment is the quasi disputed territory which is internationally known as the Ilemi Triangle. The existence of systemic interconnected perennial conflict in Northern Kenya is well documented (Kratli and Swift; 1999). The project will commence its intervention in the districts of the Turkana people and their interaction with neighboring ethnic groups. While engaging in this process, we will also be planning future interventions via meetings with key and relevant conflict management actor’s located in the Marsabit area.

This study presents an analysis of the current and past situation between the Pokot and the Samburu tribes in Kenya while looking at the strategies applied so far by all stakeholders including government, civil society organizations and development partners. The study will starts by analyzing the historical perspectives of the conflict with special focus on the attendant causes sustaining factors, the resultant effects these have had on the people affected and present some recommendations and conclusions.

The Pokot and the Samburu tribes in Kenya conflict dates as far back as 1952 and since then the biggest concern of both Pokot and the  Samburu , has been and remains the lack of peace which has led to underdevelopment of both peoples. In effect both have missed out on the modernizations era and still live in dehumanizing conditions either in the camps or in their nomadic life.

Many actors have sighted a number of causes for the Pokot and the Samburu conflict, some of which are; deliberate underdevelopment of the region by both colonial and present governments making it stay backward, the inherent culture of rustling, that they see as source of livelihood, bride price and pride, thus all cattle belongs to them, the acquisition of illegal modern weapons and their continued flow to the region, lack of water and pasture for watering and grazing cattle, attitudes of hatred by the neighbours and the inter-clan raids and counter raids to stock and restock herds among the Pokot ethnic clans, motivated by economic gains(trade). The possession of illegal guns by the tribes has generated xenophobic feelings and related intolerances, among the two neighbours.

The outcomes of the raids in the neighbouring districts have been devastating. There is loss of life, injury, massive internal displacements of the people time and again, theft and loss of livestock, food insecurity and collapse of social and developmental services like education, health, and agriculture; spread of HIV/AIDS due to rape and defilement, abductions; growing number of orphans, widows, single mothers and child headed households. Others are high level of mistrust, tension, fear, trauma, despair, uncertainty and high levels of poverty due to loss of economic opportunities.

Although less reported, the Samburu tribes themselves have become victims to this unfortunate escalation and transformation of the old raiding tradition of use of spears to now violent raids with guns. Many of them die in the process when confronted by the Pokot raiders. They have become increasingly isolated and mistrusted, and development efforts in Turkana and Samburu districts have virtually come to a halt. This supports the famous UNDP definition that “peace is another word for development.”

Given the above ugly situation, efforts must be made to tackle and address this conflict lest it spells permanent displacement, poverty, abuse of human rights and destitution for all the affected people of the region neighbouring the two districts. This can be done, first by trying to gain a deeper understanding of the conflict and factors/actors that continue to perpetuate it as well as its effects.

Cattle rustling have inflicted a lot of pain and suffering in the Samaburu society especially the women, children and elderly persons including people with disabilities. The cattle raids have not only affected Samaburu but have spilled over to neighbouring districts such as Kapchorwa, Laikipia and isiolo, including other pastoralists tribes across the borders in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan. It is clear from the foregoing that conflict is very expensive in terms of both human and financial resources and diverts the much needed resources away from sorely needed development efforts, it is therefore imperative to address the factors that continue to perpetuate it. In order therefore, to establish harmonious relationships in a divided society, there is need to have an enabling environment because lasting peace is impossible without justice, economic, social and political opportunities.

The disarmament programme in the districts needs to re-evaluate to incorporate lessons learnt in the previous attempts in order to make it more effective. As the Pokot and Samaburu tribes are persuaded to surrender their guns, there is need for an alternative to engage the youth who have been employed by the gun for all their lives. But also for people used to protecting themselves, to throw their lives and property into the hands of government overnight would be difficult after all there is suspicion that government had abandoned them on their own for decades.

There is now a realization that the relationship between these two brotherly ethnic groups is that of a latent conflict, that now and again surfaces as a struggle for values, resources, interests, rights, livelihoods and land. This calls for the obvious need to deeply examine and understand this reality from a variety of perspectives. According to My understanding resolution of conflict is non – power based and non-coercive. It aims at a post conflict relationship which is not based on power, and which endures because the parties find it legitimate. In the process of conflict resolution, the parties analyse their conflict and make adjustments to their relationships.

If this themes will be fully addressed in this study, they will have a key role to play in addressing the causes of the conflict in question and building local capacity to manage this conflict by promoting inclusive and effective governance and strong civil society, development, trade, growth and economic diversification, while addressing exclusion by encouraging community participation at all levels. Ultimately, the yardstick against which deliberate efforts are taken to stop cattle rustling, and the development of both the Pokot and Samaburu, should be by the extent to which peace and development is attained in the two districts.


The Foundation acknowledges that Michael Gichia has successfully completed his project.