Cablegate: Mandera Launch of Kenya-Somalia Cross-Border

DE RUEHNR #2687/01 1800705
P 290705Z JUN 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

Reftel: NAIROBI 04639

1. USAID/East Africa representatives, accompanied by
representatives of USAID contractor Development
Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), recently visited Kenya?s
conflict-prone northeast province of Mandera. The two-
night, three-day trip culminated in an event to launch
the expansion of the Kenya-Somalia cross-border
conflict management program which began in 2004 to now
include Ethiopian stakeholders as well.

2. This program highlights the hybrid forms of
governance which have been emerging in ungoverned and
under-governed spaces throughout Kenya, Ethiopia and
Somalia, namely the mediated state (reftel). This
model involves collaboration between state actors
(district commissioners) and local civil society
organizations functioning as peace committees which
bring together clan elders, women?s and youth
organizations and local NGOs. In the absence of a
strong state presence, collaboration between the state
representatives and the local peace committees provides
a structure for early warning, community level
response, and reconciliation of conflicts within the
affected districts and in many cases conflicts which
involve actors across the border.

3. Background

The Mandera Triangle region comprises of the Gedo
region in Somalia, the Doolow region in Ethiopia, and
the Mandera district in Kenya. The social groups
involved include the major Somali and bilingual Somali-
Oromo clans of the Gabaweyn (Ethiopia, Kenya and
Somalia), the Degodia (Kenya and Ethiopia), the Murrule
(Kenya), the Marehan (Somalia), and the Garre (Somalia,
Kenya and Ethiopia), as well as the other Somali- and
Oromo-speaking clans. These groups, who together form
the populations of Mandera, Doolow and Gedo districts,
are closely linked by geography and a shared social
system, by religious and clan ties, and by commercial
links and interests that stretch deep into the border
areas of the three countries and beyond.

4. Because the people of the Mandera Triangle are
largely pastoralists, water and grazing rights are
often a source of conflict. Events outside local
control such as the unfolding events in Somalia,
drought and other natural disasters, or political
competition among various clans (such as with the
upcoming national elections) have the potential to
heighten tensions. Livestock raiding and other forms
of banditry are common and have in the past escalated
into clan-based cycles of violence.

5. Weak state control or lack of a central state in
Somalia?s case has meant that functions which would
usually be undertaken by central authority have
devolved to local actors in Gedo, Doolow, and Mandera.
In all three regions, security has been enhanced by
promoting informal and traditional mechanisms of
conflict mitigation under the rubric of peace
committees composed of local officials and civil
society organizations.

6. The formal launch of the new phase of USAID/EA?s
project was a chance to formalize relationships that
have been ongoing in the Mandera Triangle since 2004.
Despite the Government of Kenya?s (GOK) official policy
of sealing the border, Ethiopian officials and Gedo
officials have been regularly meeting with the Mandera
DC and other stakeholders in the cross-border work.

7. Cross-border peace work from the Mandera perspective

Within Mandera district, local peace structures have
been evolving since USAID/Kenya and USAID/East Africa
began their support in 2004. What began as a peace
committee centered on Mandera Town and initiated by
three stakeholder groups--Women for Peace, Elders for
Peace, and Youth for Peace--has evolved in to a
district-wide committee representing not only Mandera
Town, but the other 17 locations within the district as
well. Two elders representing each of the Mandera
locations, and 4 representing the town (the 2
additional seats ensure that all 4 major clans within

NAIROBI 00002687 002 OF 002

the town are represented), constitute the Mandera
District Peace Committee (MDPC). The GOK?s
representative in Mandera, the District Commissioner
(DC), has been a key champion of the MDPC?s work and
serves as the committee?s chair.

8. Through the new formation, the MDPC elders report
being able to better respond to conflicts throughout
the district. Mandera Town and its livestock market
was previously a flashpoint for conflict. However, the
establishment of a ?peace market? in the town with area
designated as the tribunal for MDPC members to
officially mediate conflicts has helped reduce the
number of conflicts centered on the town. Currently,
outlying areas of the district are experiencing more
violence, banditry, and livestock raiding, and often
the perpetrators live across the border in Ethiopia and
Somalia. Local clan elders in affected areas are
trained by the MDPC and provide the first-immediate
response. Their representatives on the MDPC are able
to report incidents and activate a wider response
capability, including communicating with their cross-
border partners when necessary. Elders reported a
number of incidents in which the cross-border network
allowed cattle raided in one area in the Eastern part
of Mandera to be retrieved from areas in Ethiopia.
Similarly, elders attributed the dialogue that the
cross-border program has fostered between the MDPC and
its partners in Gedo as being a key factor in helping
to mitigate the effects of instability in Somalia from
spilling over in to Mandera.

9. The Mandera DC?s ongoing participation in the peace
building work has been instrumental in helping him
carry out his official duties and to maintain peace in
the region. He recognized the effectiveness of
deferring to the MDPC to help solve disputes between
the populations of the three districts. Using
traditional means involving negotiated settlements
between clans, rather than individual prosecutions
through the criminal justice system, has proven more
effective at preventing isolated incidents from


Local capacity, particularly in Mandera and Gedo, to
deal with small incidents of conflict is promising.
Though peace building efforts in Doolow are new, the
commitment of local authorities and civil society
stakeholders is strong. However, USAID/Kenya partner,
Practical Action, which also does peace work in
Mandera, questioned whether the MDPC has the capacity
to deal with potential tensions associated with the
upcoming Kenya national elections. Competition for
parliamentary seats has already led to a resurgence of
clan identity which will likely be exploited by
candidates vying for office.

11. The GOK?s National Steering Committee on Peace
Building and Conflict Management has developed a draft
national policy on conflict management and peace
building. However, the finalizaton of the policy has
been delayed. USAID partner DAI stressed the need for
such a policy in all three countries to
institutionalize and clarify the structures of local
peace committees with which the central government will
engage, which will in turn mitigate the potential for
the peace committees themselves to become a source of

12. In Mandera, MDPC members recognized the growing
pains in evolving from a town-based organization to a
district-wide organization. In particular, various
groups conferred legitimacy on the new arrangements
depending on whether they felt more or less
represented, and had better or worse access to
external, donor resources used to support peace
building. These issues will continue to arise and
USAID recognizes their role in helping to coordinate
the many peace actors working in the Mandera district
as well as across borders. RANNEBERGER

© Scoop Media

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