Summary of a roundtable discussion on the peace and security situation in the Somali Cluster
Summary of a round-table discussion on the peace and security situation in the Somali Cluster
30 July 2011
Moyale Elementary School grounds in Moyale Town, Ethiopia
Participants were a small group of elders; CEWARN Field Monitors; provincial administration officials from some of the districts that participated in the peace tournament from 28– 31 July 2010 in Moyale Town, Ethiopia. See below a summary of transcribed notes of the discussion.
Is conflict a permanent condition of relations among pastoral communities along the Ethiopia-Kenya border in the Somali cluster? Inter-communal conflicts in these areas have been occurring throughout history although they are not a permanent feature of relations. What has been a cause of concern was the increased frequency and intensity of these conflicts as resources have become more and more scarce. Water and pasture resources have continuously been diminishing on the one hand while there has been a rapid increase in population of humans and livestock. Previously, there was abundance of water and pasture that could support the human and livestock populations in the region. Nowadays, the environment is becoming harsh and affecting living conditions, so much so that there are new trends of intra-clan raids. While drought and related hardship has been seen to bring communities together and promote cooperation in the short-term, it also contributes to increased stress and conflict. This is mainly because drought curtails and disturbs the seasonal mobility pattern of pastoral communities. Furthermore, ethnicism and Political competition as well as contested demarcation of territories in some cases have contributed to aggravating conflicts.
How significant is the role of customary institutions in peace building? Customary institutions of communities in the area such as the Aba Gaddas of Borana and Gabbra make vital contributions to peace building. This is due to their well-entrenched role in the communities’ day to day lives and their position of influence. However, these customary institutions are being weakened by urbanisation and increased modernization which diminishes the previously high-regard accorded to these institutions. On the other hand, there has been recognition and some level of support to these institutions from the government (eg. Government of Ethiopia).
Has the peace and security situation in the area improved in recent years? How are you able to measure the improvement? There has been a lot of improvement in the peace and security situation in the area. This is mainly attributed to the Maikona/Dukana Peace accord that reversed a cycle of intense conflict particularly among the Borana and Gabbra. The communal agreement now embraces wider communities and covers wider areas compared to its initial target. It has been a positive precedent and promoted harmony along the border of the communities –not just the Borana and Gabbra communities. This is evident in the relatively low number of physical violence since the agreement. Its terms promote peaceful resource sharing and cordial relations among communities as opposed to competition and violence. The community agreements have also presented a mechanism to address the threat of violence in the area. Therefore, market is flourishing along the borders of the two countries and movement of people as well as increased cooperation in times of drought.
Are communities adhering to the communal peace agreements? The strength of these communal agreements is they address numerous categories of violent incidents including killings, theft, assault as well as terms on how to address each one of them. The agreements have also – to a large extent- been applied, and contributed to a significant decrease in violent incidents.
What are the key challenges in terms of peace building the area? So far, there has been mostly a reactive approach to conflict prevention as opposed to proactive. It is important that local peace committees are supported to maintain linkages at all times – both in times of peace and conflict. Communal peace agreements are also threatened by external parties which are not part of the peace framework these include the Rendille and Samburu of Kenya and the Teltele and Dassenech of Ethiopia. The vastness of the border area among the two countries is also a challenge as it requires resources as well as a strong communication capacity for sharing of real-time information among local peace committees. Another challenge is the high-turnover of government officials and issues of sustainability and commitment.
What are your recommendations for future peace building interventions in the area? It is important that there are sustained peace building efforts (including peace dialogues, youth sports’ tournaments and related) as well as regular interaction among local peace committees. Peace initiatives should also involve surrounding communities that are currently not part of the framework particularly the Rendille, Samuburu, Dassenech and Teltele. There is also a need to link peace and development efforts such as promoting access to sustainable market. These will be invaluable in terms of addressing livelihood concerns of these communities and decreasing their vulnerability to drought and other shocks. END