Conflict and community: Interplay of traditional and contemporary approaches in conflict resolution among the Somali pastoralists in Wajir District, North Eastern Province of Kenya
Sheikh, Yasmin A
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Wajir District has for a long time been a battle field between clans. In 1991 fierce fighting erupted: there was theft, robbery, looting, destruction, rape and murder. By late 1993 almost no part ofWajir District was safe. Neither traditional systems of clan-based justice nor the Kenyan justice system worked in bringing the conflict to a stop. On the other hand the people were desperate and tired of War, which necessitated a group of Women to take leadership and look for solutions. Discussions began at the workplace and in the homes then the Wajir peace group was born. A number of different groups were all trying to bring about peace: the Women, the Elders, and the Youth. Talks between the various groups led to agreement to co-ordinate efforts and to the setting up of the Wajir Peace and Development Committee. This Ccrrmittee needed to co-ordinate its activities with the work of the District Security Committee. Moves were made for this to happen and the Wajir Peace and Development committee became part of the District Development Committee chaired by the District Commissioner. This ensured not only co-operation and co-ordination, but also legitimacy as all groups who had a stake in the Peace Process were included in the decision-making process. Hence it required a delicate balance and creative conflict management structures and mechanisms. The peoples own consensual decision without external coercion, but on themselves realizing that they were tired of war but in need of peace came together to form this unique peace building approach. The focus of this study is to explore how this unique peace building approach works in enhancing peace among the differentiated clans and the impact on development. The stuUY was carried out at Athi Bohol, Dilmanyaley, Ingirir and Wajir Town ofWajir district. The study adopted a qualitative and quantitative approach. Data for the study was obtained from primary and secondary sources. Primary data was collected using a questionnaire administered through face-to-face interviews to a sample of 108 household heads and key informants were interviewed using an interview guide. The study findings confirm that the integrated hybrid approach to conflict resolution and peace building has been successful in achieving sustainable reconciliation within the larger district. It also confirms that due to the calm and stability achieved as a result of this process of peace building the standards of living within the district have improved. The hYbJid approach as a conflict resolution technique cannot be fully counted on to bring about long term durable peace because the effectiveness of the peace committee wholly depends on the good will of the members and their willingness to support the process. The approach lacks legal and policy frameworks that would give it room to perform its proactive conflict prevention and management functions in society. Although the peace committees have been effective in resolving murder and theft, they have not been able to address political and administrative factors which are considered as part of the underlying causes of the violent conflicts because they do not have the mandate to do so. For example the peace committees are not able to revoke decisions in the creation of new districts and administrative regions made by high ranking officials in government. The study recommends that for the approach to be fully effective and efficient in bringing about durable peace then there is need for a legal and policy framework that legitimizes the mandate of the peace committees; defme its roles, composition/membership of the committees, the place and relationship of other peace actors. The legal and policy framework entrenching the work of peace committees should also take into consideration cross-border conflicts. This calls for the harmonization of region -d legal and policy frameworks as it relates to transboundary conflict management and natural resource sharing. Peace committees should be equipped with legal and policy measures to intervene in cross-border conflicts. The use of Wajir demonstrates that confidence in local institutions can ensure sustainable peace between communities.