Crossing the river to restore peace: Resolving intra and inter-ethnic conflict in Kenya

In Migori County, Kenya, stock theft of cattle is a major source of conflict between the Nyabasi and the Bwirege clans of Kuria East. Similarly, there are conflicts between the Kipsigis and the Maasai against the Kuria’s, along the same border, over stolen cattle.

International Alert’s Tusameheane Tujenge Nchi (participatory governance for peace in Kenya) project aims to address these intra and inter-ethnic conflicts between the communities in Migori, Nairobi and Wajir counties. The project does this by implementing a programme of participatory governance at the county levels, creating space for dialogue so that communities can work together to reduce some of the incentives for conflict between them and contribute to the wider peacebuilding processes.

Project team in Kenya cross the river Migori
The project team cross the river Migori on foot to get to the Maasai from Kuria.

Over the past few years, the theft of stock has been escalating and increasing tensions among communities. In response to this, with support from the project, Deputy County Commissioner (DCC) of Kuria East and the area’s Sub County Peace Committee convened a meeting along the border at Mpesa between the Kuria and the Maasai to address the issue.

However, infrastructure is also a major challenge in the region. A river separating the Kuria and Massai and with no easy way to cross it has hindered peace talks between each side. In an effort to resolve this conflict and restore peace between the two groups, the Kuria entourage, led by the DCC and project team, crossed the river Migori to the Maasai side on foot (see image above).

Community talks through their grievances together
The communities come together to talk through their grievances peacefully and collectively agree how to solve them.

Present during the meeting were two Members of the County Assembly (MCAs), Transmara West and Kuria East DCCs, chiefs, community leaders, the police, elders and the community. All those in attendance were able to voice their grievances, talk through the issues and collectively decide how to peacefully resolve them. Among the resolutions that were agreed upon, one was the immediate and unconditional return of stolen cattle. As a result, four out of the eight cattle that was stolen were returned to their rightful owners.

Through the series of dialogue forums that have taken place due to the project we have seen the security situation improving, with the reduction of conflicts between the two communities and stock being stolen. The communities that could not see eye to eye are now going about their activities like stock keeping and farming peacefully, and are also trading with one another.

Stolen cattle being returned
Stolen cattle is returned.