The Kenya Initiative supports the application and development of indigenous peacebuilding processes in pastoralist (nomadic herder) Kenya. We work with local partners in a multi-faceted, bottom up and top down approach to pastoralist peacebuilding intended to support our local partners in building an extensive network of local peace guardians empowered to resolve their own conflicts and sustain their own peace.
Board Liaison: Prabha Sankaranarayan, USA
Team Leader: Gail Ervin, Ph.D., USA
Team Members: Victoria Gray, USA; Lisa Rose, Northern Ireland; Carl Flanagan, USA; Marcus Tan de Bibiana, Sweden; Mary Ellen Doyle, Ireland; Devon Knudsen, Germany
Partners: Peace Guardians Core Group, Local Capacities for Peace International, Rotary International, SAIDIA, Tiaty Integrated Peace Initiative
Mediators Beyond Borders International was invited to Kenya by pastoralist peacebuilders to help them increase their conflict resolution skills and build peace between warring ethnic communities in rural areas. The Mediators Beyond Borders International Kenya Initiative (MBBI-KI) team. MBBI conducted an in-depth assessment over four trips to Kenya, and established the Kenya Initiative in 2012.
We have formed a unique partnership of Kenyan and US volunteer organizations, pastoralist communities, and Kenyan county government to implement the Warriors to Peace Guardians Framework—a systemic initiative to address deadly and intractable pastoralist violence. This project builds on the success of the Laikipia Peace Caravan, and takes its most effective strategies to next level. MBB-KI participates as catalysts, mentors, trainers, and coordinators in supporting the development of a strong pastoralist network that can effectively manage conflict at the grassroots.
With a generous grant from the United States Institute of Peace, MBBI most recently supported its local partners in providing pastoralist communities in Baringo County with the skills and leadership capacity to resolve inter-ethnic conflict, and establishing a cadre an inter-ethnic and inclusive network of community Peace Guardians. The program resulted in what tens of Peace Guardians reported as a sharp drop in violence and a notable increase in inter-ethnic cooperation and new relationships. The project successfully provided tiered mediation skills training for new Peace Guardian leaders to act as trainers. This group has in turn trained in-county Baringo Peace Guardians and is supporting the application of these skills through mentoring.
For pastoralists in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya, harsh conditions threaten lives and herds, often the sole source of livelihood. Warriors who kept the group safe and who rustled cattle when needed were celebrated, as this could mean survival. But modern conditions – easy access to weapons, arbitrary boundaries, disappearing water and grazing due to climate change – have escalated the violence within those traditions into widespread death and destruction. While many agencies and organizations focus on Kenya’s urban areas and international borders, few resources are available for the interior pastoralist counties.
Shrinking resources to keep the herds alive disrupts cooperative grazing patterns and pits these herding groups against each other, and revenge cycles keep the violence going. The changes bring the pastoralists into closer contact and similar conflict with farmers in villages. And warriors’ desperation, high mobility, and skill with weapons make them easy targets for recruiting into the violent commercial rustling markets and as agents of corrupt politicians accomplishing political goals through violence.
While Kenyan society is generating economic success, it is not reaching the pastoralists. Development in their areas rarely provides access to water, much less sanitation, schools or health care. Inadequate road building keeps them isolated from towns with services and other possibilities for livelihood. Written off as violent, backward people, pastoralists cannot count on police response to replace violent self-protection, nor has there been consistent political action to address the severe development deficits in pastoral lands. Pastoralists remain locked in a cycle of scarcity and violence with little ability to imagine any other option.
Our Local Partners
Pastoralist professionals working in urban centers (“Professionals”) – the ‘sons and daughters’ with families still living traditionally in very rural Kenya – see the promise in mediation and facilitation of disputes on the grass roots level and have been effectively building peace among pastoralists.
Learning from the Grassroots
The MBB-KI team and “Professionals” participated in an extensive participatory action research project to examine the most successful of pastoralist peacebuilding efforts, the Laikipia Peace Caravan. The research identified key elements that made this effort successful which have been incorporated into the project concept and objectives.
The research identified key outcomes sustained as a result of the peace efforts, over five subsequent years:
- The number of conflict-related deaths has been almost zero
- Communities now help return lost or stolen livestock to other communities
- Weekly inter-ethnic peace committee meetings with women, elders and youth – called peace guardians – discuss issues, share information, and largely use restorative justice processes to keep the peace and manage criminal activities
- Children are able to return to school and new schools have been built
- The communities are growing wealthier and economic activity has increased
- Peace guardians respond to early signs of conflict and have become peacebuilders for surrounding communities
These outcomes reflect peacebuilders’ greatest goal, not just the absence of fighting, but positive peace; where relationships are restored, social systems serve the entire inter-ethnic community, and there is constructive resolution of conflict. With this new knowledge, MBB-KI and our local partners designed a new Warriors to Peace Guardians Framework, which we are now implementing on several tracks. This Framework is a systemic approach to pastoralist peacebuilding that is intended to leave our local partners with an extensive network of local peace guardians empowered to resolve their own conflicts and sustain their peace.
- Increase the skills and number of pastoralist peace guardians who prevent and manage violence in their communities and teach this to other pastoralist groups
- Generate development and improve livelihoods for pastoralists to remove key conflict drivers and promote positive peace
- Create civil society focus on ensuring that the government’s peace infrastructure functions effectively and is coordinated with grassroots peace activity
- Improve police and security response to violence and crime in pastoralist communities
- Disseminate peace-sustaining practices from Laikipia West to areas of pastoralist violence in Baringo, Samburu and Isiolo counties
- Increase the coordination of peace-sustaining practices across the four counties of Laikipia, Baringo, Samburu and Isiolo at the County government and grassroots levels
This initiative survives on carefully selected and applied for grants. In addition, the team strives to maintain a revolving fund for small grants as needed for KPN training and operations, and to fill in gaps that the grants are unable to cover. Transportation to remote areas requires hiring expensive four-wheel drive vehicles to reach the people on the ground. Many thanks to the support of the United States Institute of Peace for funding our work in Baringo County, which has already contributed to the cessation of violence in the area, and is developing a cadre of local peace guardians to sustain the peace.
Funding allows us to support local peacebuilders in their work.
Please consider donating to this important cause to help save lives and support a proud indigenous people in generating their own sustainable peace. Your donations absolutely make a difference. For example, the local community chairman shared that our trauma training he attended last summer completely shifted the way asks his community members questions, to ensure that residual trauma from the Kanampiu massacre is not triggered and further harms his people. MBB-KI was the first to address this need, five years later.