In recent years in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia violent incidents have claimed increasing numbers of lives. Incidents of political intimidation, cattle rustling, smuggling and other kinds of crime have spread fear, disrupted trade, hampered livestock production and impeded mobility. In a climate of political instability and judicial incapacity in the unruly borderlands of East Africa, a small but nonetheless significant number of young pastoralists, entrepreneurs and officials have gained power and wealth.
Pastoralist citizens hoped that government and NGO promises of peace and investment would be successful. But as the situation got worse, they began to discuss new ways of tackling the problem. They argued that no beneficial innovation in the rangelands, the markets or any part of pastoralist life could happen while this level of violence prevailed.
Over a period of seven years the innovation has gradually expanded. At first individual traditional leaders worked on discrete interventions. Today’s work involves interconnected efforts by a coalition of pastoralists and others, affecting whole conflict systems. Pastoralist capabilities to maintain peace are being developed in contemporary conditions. While innovative, their work is anchored in tradition: in pastoralist culture, law, religion and understanding. Linking old and new forms of authority, they are experimenting with bringing together customary and state law in a basic framework of acceptable justice. It includes a wide range of people, young and old, women and men, peace makers and trouble makers.
Pastoralist elders in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia have designed a study for the Future Agricultures research programme looking at what is making this particular innovation work. Their study will track the development of the new peacemaking approach and outline how the innovation is unfolding. The focus will be on a peace process between the Gabra and Borana of Kenya and Ethiopia. It will look at the actors and their actions, knowledge, powers, connections and differences. It will clarify the systems that limit and define the innovation and shape it as time goes on. It will take account of the political and cultural reasons that agreements and disagreements unfold as they do. (To read more about this process, please click here.
The work involves the following outputs and timetable:
- Discussions with community members, elders, officials, NGO personnel, religious leaders, politicians and others, to track the course of events in at least five locations in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia over a period of five weeks in June/July 2010.
- Analysis debates with groups of pastoralist thinkers and others in those same locations.
- Development of the narrative of the research in a meeting with consultants from PCI, July 2010.
- Presentation of results for debate and feedback to a gathering of pastoralists. November/December 2010.
- Documentation of the findings and feedback published initially on the FAC and pastoralists.org websites. December 2010.
- Production of a working paper by January 2011.
Pastoralist Shade Initiative
The Pastoralist Shade Initiative is an organisation formed by Kenyan pastoralist elders from eight different ethnic groups. Created in 2008 in response to increasing levels of conflict and failures of mainstream development to address pastoralist issues, its aim is to “bring together pastoralist communities in an inclusive process that engages with government and other actors to achieve and maintain peace using traditional conflict resolution methods”. This is done using research, dialogue and a combination of customary and state law. The research involves rigorous questioning and triangulation, through discussion and interview with diverse people and key players within the conflict system. Their method is oral and iterative and the final results are only written once consensus is reached as to the veracity of findings and interpretations.