An Assessment Of The Conflict Management Approaches By State And Non-State Actors In Kenya: A Case Study Of The Mt. Elgon Conflict
This study investigated the effectiveness of the conflict management approaches by state and no-state actors in the conflict in Mt. Elgon District, Kenya. It made an attempt to establish the main causes and impacts of the conflict. It also identified the actors involved in the conflict and the conflict management process. The study made use of questionnaires and structured interviews that elicited invaluable information from key policy and decisionmakers. peace practitioners, opinion leaders in both government and outside government. To complement these, the study reviewed vast literature relevant to the area under investigation. The study found out that land occupies a central role in the conflict in Mt. Elgon. The land problem is manifested in structural violence that has been going on for a long period of time since colonialism. As a natural resource-based conflict, the land problem is set out within the economic, political, social, environmental and legal contexts. The land problem is manifested in the inequitable land distribution and access; discriminatory or unclear land tenure systems; competing land claims and uses; land scarcity; social exclusion and identity; bad governance coupled with weak national and local institutions and arbitration procedures. The study points out that for effective management of this conflict to accrue, it must therefore address the contexts within which the conflict unfolds. The study also found out that there are various actors, state and non-state, involved not only in the conflict management processes, but also in sustaining the conflict. The state has been identified as the dominant player in this regard. Most of the actors in this conflict have entered the conflict with various motives and interests. Nevertheless, the main driver behind 11 their involvement has to do with the maintenance of security. However, the study points out that these efforts have been geared merely at settlement rather than resolution of the conflict. They have employed myriads of methodologies such as arbitration of land disputes, most of which end up in the formal legal systems. Coercive methods have been used thereby negating the role of conflict resolution. In effect, most of the methods used by the actors have proved to be ineffective. In view of these, the study has documented a number of lessons drawn from the conflict management process. It points out clearly that the conflict in Mt. Elgon District cannot simply be resolved through a “quick fix”. This is because the conflict has lived on for a long time and transformed in both structure, interests and actors involved. It also emphasizes the need for inclusivity of all stakeholders in conflict management through enhanced facilitation, communication and engagement. It also points out that the power relations and interests of stakeholders need to be carefully taken into consideration for sustainable peace to accrue. This study asserts that the greatest challenge to the conflict management and the attendant peacebuilding activities and programmes in Mt. Elgon lies in the quality of commitment and political will of the various related actors both in the conflict and the management process. It recommends the need for all actors to address the structural issues that have worked to sustain the conflict and embrace conflict sensitive development approaches at all levels. Otherwise the domination of the coercive means in addressing this conflict would only have served to propel the conflict to other levels that may explode in future. It further recommends that a study be conducted on organized militia and a mapping of the extent and magnitude of proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in the District and adjacent Districts.
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