Editor’s Note: It was a dangerous road once dreaded. Now the Shalom Centre for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation has empowered ethnic communities in the Turkana Desert to walk together freely and without fear.
Below we reproduce with the permission of SHALOM a reflection written by its Communications Department and Kennedy Akoko, MA, Project Officer.
The road is known well by SCCRR-Shalom; the road from Loreng’ekippi to Nauyapong. It has a narrative of fear. The kind of fear that has been created over time because of inter-ethnic conflict that has prevailed in the area for many years. Senior tribal leaders of these two ethnic communities rightly say that the conflict is caused by competition over resources (water and grass), inter-ethnic hatred, institutional marginalization, cattle raiding, and a cycle of revenge. Apart from the emotional trauma of fear engrained in the tribes; some of the impacts of the conflict in this area are increased poverty, low development, poor school attendance, inoperable health facilities and broken families. SCCRR’s consistent interventions have borne fruit as relations are improving especially the new found freedom to walk the ‘road of fear’. It is now a road of hope.
SCCRR travelled on the road to Nauyapong recently to conduct a workshop on inter-ethnic/tribal mediation and many people were seen walking this road of fear. When in conversation with the Pokot, they were asked where they were going to which they replied “we are headed to the nearest Turkana village to buy livestock”. At first, one would say it was a risk but it is far from that; it is a new found confidence and trust between the tribes allowing them to move between each other’s villages without fear of attack.
In the workshop, SCCRR engaged the participants as to what contributed to the change and how they feel about the change. The participants were more than happy to express that it was through their new understanding of conflict analysis that enabled them to know how to engage with the other party. This understanding was gained from the workshops facilitated by SCCRR which is empowering them to be proactive in the process of building trust and better relationships. The community has been empowered by analytical skills and peacebuilding techniques, they are able to deal with complex conflict issues. The theory of conflict transformation in this project area therefore is that when the community is empowered with the necessary skills, it is able to address whatever issue that affects it.
To confirm this, SCCRR met with a woman who had come to visit her sister who is married into the other community. She told the story of how the area has changed from what it used to be. In previous years she said, that rather than walking the road of fear when the conflict was at its peak, she would travel through the bushes disregarding the snakes and the wild animals because she knew that walking by the road would mean her death. She feared the other community but this has all changed for the better now.
SCCRR – Shalom is engaging with the tribes in creating an integrated peacebuilding process involving acknowledging the past, reframing the present and envisioning a shared future of inter-dependence where all sides are mutually interested in the wellbeing, development and harmony of each other.
In such circumstances, people begin to have a new sense of freedom, access quality education, improved health facilities, better-quality infrastructure, inter-marriages, upgraded standard of living, and enhanced trading with each other. And most of all they walk freely on the once road of fear. Infrastructure-insecurity being progressively transformed to inter-ethnic/tribal security is an important dimension of Shalom’s work.