Cablegate: Pastoralists Gather for Peace in Maikona

DE RUEHNR #1770/01 2321257
P 201257Z AUG 09



E.O.12958: N /A

SUBJECT: Pastoralists Gather for Peace in Maikona

REF: A. Nairobi 1259
B. Nairobi 1242
C. Nairobi 1238
D. Nairobi 551
E. 08 Nairobi 2721

1. Kenya's upper Eastern province continues to be
caught in a cycle of inter-tribal violence driven by
competition for scarce resources. Two of the
opposing groups, the Borana and Gabra, are closely
related communities that speak the same language and
intermingle along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border. Poor
infrastructure, weak governance, and sparse
population density in this region mean that
community-based dialogue using traditional
peacemaking mechanisms may be one of the more
effective ways to help stabilize the situation. A
Mission Team recently traveled to Maikona, in the
northwestern reaches of Kenya's Eastern province,
for a peace gathering that brought together members
of the Borana and Gabra communities from Kenya and
Ethiopia to discuss violence and boundary issues.
We will continue to promote peacemaking efforts by
community members' customary justice and governance
systems of this marginalized region, and support
local elected officials in their efforts to play a
constructive role in promoting peace in ways that
respect the customary value systems that have a high
potential to resolve conflicts efficiently. End

Background on Peace Gatherings

2. Kenya's upper Eastern province continues to be
caught in a cycle of inter-tribal violence driven by
competition for scarce resources. Two of the
opposing groups, the Borana and Gabra, are closely
related communities that speak the same language and
intermingle along the Kenyan-Ethiopian border. Both
groups are Cushitic and closely related to
Ethiopia's Oromo people. The presence in this area
of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a guerilla and
political organization that has been fighting
against the Government of Ethiopia since 1973, adds
a political dimension to the conflict. The July
2005 massacre of 60 Gabra (including 21 children) in
the relatively well-watered and pastured area of
Turbi, Kenya was widely blamed on the Borana and the
OLF and served as a tipping point for long-simmering
tensions between the two groups. After a brutal
revenge attack by the Gabra during the same month
that left ten churchgoers (including two children)
dead, 6,000 people from the Turbi area fled their
homes. Gabra and Borana elders from Kenya and
Ethiopia eventually started a peace initiative,
which eventually led to a ceasefire in November
2008. The agreement, which became known as the
Dukana-Dillo Declaration (named after the two
villages that came together to negotiate the deal)
details the community-agreed and -imposed penalties
for stealing animals, injuring or killing a person,
inciting violence, or protecting the culprit of
animal thefts. (Note: The Government of Kenya is
beginning to recognize the utility of such
traditional conflict resolution mechanisms, and
established the National Steering Committee on
Peace-Building and Conflict Management (NSC) to
provide policy direction and support to District
Peace Committees throughout Kenya. See refs A, C,
and 9240439
51_large.pdf End Note.)

3. In order to spread peace along the border, in
June the elders who initiated the peace initiative
hosted 130 people from Ethiopia and Kenya in the
Kenyan border village of Dukana to hear about the
initiative. The Dukana gathering included men,
women, and youth from Dire, Miyo, Dillo and Teltele
districts in Ethiopia and from Chalbi and Marsabit
districts in Kenya. By the end of the gathering,
elders, participants, and representatives from both
the Kenyan and Ethiopian governments fully endorsed
the Dukana-Dillo accords. (Note: After the Dukana

NAIROBI 00001770 002 OF 005

meeting, Kenyan Gabra from Forole were given
immediate access to Borana boreholes in Magado,
Ethiopia. End Note.)

Participation at Maikona Gathering

4. The Maikona gathering, which took place July 17-
19, was planned as a way to cement the peace process
more firmly in Kenya and Ethiopia by inviting
representatives from the Sololo, Walda, Uran, and
Rawan settlements, who did not participate in
Dukana. (Note: Many of the pastoralists and
Ethiopian government representatives blamed their
non-participation in Dukana on pressure by members
of the OLF living in those communities. End Note.)
Each of these communities sent representatives to
the Maikona gathering. Also present were
representatives of the Samburu and Rendille
communities who are struggling to deal with their
own inter-communal conflicts with the Borana and
Somalis in Isiolo and Samburu Districts (refs A, B,
C, and D). A few Turkana representatives were also
present, and keen to replicate the process. In
total, 250 pastoralists and community members
attended the meeting, including more than 40 women
and 20 youth. Several high-level politicians and
local, district, and provincial officials attended
as well.

5. While the UK-funded Democracy, Growth and Peace
for Pastoralists (DGPP) provided some infrastructure
support for the gathering, members of the invited
communities organized the event and carried it out
in a traditional manner. Elders led the
proceedings, women provided entertaining songs and
dances (and participated freely in the proceedings),
and translators ensured that observers and the media
could understand the proceedings.

6. Seated under the shade of an acacia tree,
individuals from each of the communities stood to
share their perspectives on the violence and how to
move forward. After considerable debate, it was
agreed that past wrongs and cross-accusations would
be put aside and a collective way forward sought.
Several speakers talked about the difficulty of
attending such meetings because people back home
assumed that the attendees went solely for the
purpose of collecting per diem, an unfortunate
backlash to years of well-meaning but marginally
effective NGO-sponsored workshops. (Note: With the
exception of some of the Kenyan government
representatives, who received high-paying per diems,
and overnight travelers, who received enough for
lodging and food on the road, Maikona's participants
funded their own travel and stayed in tents set up
by an outfitter at the site. Traditional meals were
also provided to participants. End Note.) Numerous
women spoke, including one of the chiefs, and seemed
to appreciate their inclusion in the discussion.
The youth participants seemed well-versed on the
issues and shared ideas during meals and sideline
discussions, but none were recognized to speak
during formal deliberations. In addition to the
community members, there was also representation
from the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Equity
Bank. KCB set up a booth and provided music one
night and an Equity Bank representative spoke on how
peace attracts investment. Many of the community
speakers encouraged the others in attendance to
implement any agreement to come from the meeting.

Outcome of Maikona Gathering

7. The two elders presiding over the meeting were a
Kenyan Gabra, Gadana Molo Galgallo and an Ethiopian
Borana, Nura Dida, who served as the respective
chairmen of the Pastoralist Shade Initiative (Kenya)
and the Oromia Pastoralists' Association (Ethiopia).
Meeting organizers aimed to provide a forum for
dialogue between the Gabra and Borana, while also
giving the Samburu and Rendille observers who were
present an idea of whether or not the process could
work further south in the Isiolo/Samburu districts,
and west in the Turkana/Pokot areas.

NAIROBI 00001770 003 OF 005

8. Neighboring tribes discussed points of contention
in detail during breakout sessions (e.g., Kenyan
Gabra and Rendille, Kenyan Samburu, Turkana, and
Massai, and Ethiopian Boran and Gabra.) The
chairmen summarized the main problems as each group
saw them, potential solutions to those problems, and
implications of those solutions. Each group had
very similar concerns. First, every group agreed
that the overall conflict was causing death and loss
of property and that it was the responsibility of
the groups to restrain the ''bad ones'' in their
ranks. Secondly, there was general agreement that
national and tribal boundary disputes were a source
of problems and resource conflicts. There also
seemed to be general agreement on removing armed
individuals from the border regions.

9. After being agreed to at Maikona, and organized
with a sense of urgency, another gathering was held
within a week. Held at Walda in Sololo District,
Kenya, near Turbi and Moyale, the gathering convened
to address the remaining Borana-Gabra ''conflict
fault line,'' in the Sololo-Turbi area. About 160
pastoralists gathered on July 27-28 and joined other
Borana and Gabra communities living along the
Ethiopia-Kenya border. They arrived at a peace
declaration which included the traditional justice
mechanisms outlined in the Dukana-Dillo Declaration
(summarized above in para 2). The communities also
agreed to start sharing grazing and water resources.
By July 29, around 400 cattle, 1500 sheep and goats
and many camels from Turbi were using the water at
Rawan, near Walda - a 10km distance, rather than the
80km they had had to travel since the Turbi massacre
in 2005. The Walda gathering was organized by
community leaders without external support apart
from limited assistance in transporting some
participants. (Note: none of the Walda attendees
received any allowance, including senior government
officials. End Note.)

10. The final agreement, known as the Maikona-Walda
Peace Declaration, includes a statement of peace
between the Borana and Gabra and a pronouncement of
equal access to resources between the two groups.
The Declaration also establishes an elder's
committee to ensure that the communities engage and
interact, an agreement to return animals that stray
from one community to another, an acknowledgement of
the government?s purview over boundary issues, and a
recognition that the tribes can sort out their own
day-to-day issues without the help of government.

Politicians' role in the Process

11. Local politicians are widely believed to support
inter-tribal violence routinely (ref E). The 2006
crash of an aircraft in Marsabit carrying seven
Kenyan officials (including five Kenyan MPs) to a
peace gathering served as a major setback to the
inclusion of lawmakers in the peace process. Ref E
discussed the Ambassador?s efforts in November 2008
to get local politicians re-engaged in promoting
peace. While Minister for the Development of
Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands, Mohammed Elmi
and Laisamis District MP Francis Chachu, a Gabra,
were receptive and supportive from the beginning,
Marsabit District MP and Assistant Minister for the
Development of Northern Kenya and Other Arid Lands
Hussein Sasura, a Borana, proved more difficult to
win over. However, Sasura since has become a vocal
supporter of inter-ethnic peace processes. By the
time Maikona organizers invited them to attend the
July gathering, all three were publicly supportive
of peace.

12. On the first day of the Maikona gathering, Elmi
spoke on the important conditions for peace,
including: politicians playing an active role, the
State protecting its citizens, policy coordination
with the border state (Ethiopia), and the
community's responsibility to change attitudes and
ways of thinking that promote violence. He also
stated that the communities will not have peace
until it becomes unacceptable for the sons of the
communities to kill and then be allowed to come home

NAIROBI 00001770 004 OF 005

and celebrated.

13. Sasura also spoke at the Maikona gathering and
encouraged the pastoralists gathered to move beyond
words and act on the peace initiative at home. He
emphasized the role of limited resources in
exacerbating the conflict and explained to the group
that conflict was keeping the region from

14. Chachu applauded the Maikona gathering?s
attendees for organizing the July 17-19 event, since
the elders, and not the government or the MPs, had
organized it. He explained that the MPs from the
greater Marsabit District wanted to see peace and
were already ''going around preaching peace'' in their
constituencies. Chachu also stated that the elected
officials in the region were ready to strengthen the
peace process that the pastoralists had started.
Like Sasura, Chachu expressed to the crowd that
without peace, there would be no development. (Note:
The Ambassador is planning to provide another
platform for the MPs to hit the ''no development
without peace'' theme by traveling north again to
announce OFDA's recently-launched Pastoralist
livelihoods program. End Note.)

15. Representatives from the Maikona and Walda
Peace Gatherings traveled to Nairobi for a meeting
with the NSC (para 2) on August 3. The NSC has shown
great interest in affirming and supporting the
expansion and deepening of such community-driven
peace processes. The NSC oversees the Kenyan
representative of the IGAD-based specialized
institution CEWARN - the Conflict Early Warning and
Response Network, headquartered in Addis Ababa.


16. There are several promising aspects to this
series of gatherings that bode well for conflict
mitigation in Kenya's arid north: the broad
community ownership in the process (e.g.,
participants generated their own funding for food
and transport, and women and youth attended the
proceedings), the positive comments by politicians
encouraging peace, and the immediate benefits to
communities once such peace agreements are
concluded, such as the water access granted to the
Gabra by the Borana after the signing of the Dukana-
Dillo Declaration. What remains to be seen is how
enforceable and enduring these agreements will be
once participants return home.

17. There are levels of complexity to this dialogue
we were unable to see or evaluate. For example, it
was apparent at certain sensitive times that local
interpreters left out some of the participants'
remarks to ensure the proceedings were spun in a
positive way for the outside observers (cross-
community accusations of OLF recruitment, and
financing of revenge attacks by remote wealthy
members of sub-clans, for example). There were also
rumblings of resentment about the ''typical behavior''
of politicians, but it appeared that community
leaders took control of the peace process and
asserted the role of the customary governance
systems. (Note: Kenyan MPs appeared late on the
first day of the meeting, reneged on a promise to
stay for the entire gathering, and attempted to
influence the date of the Walda gathering. Some
participants interpreted the attempt to change the
date as a way for the politicians to exert control
over who could participate at Walda. As politicians
are more often criticized for their complete absence
from such discussions, we view their presence and
involvement as a net positive. End Note.) Finally,
the lack of youth participation in the formal
dialogue may not have provided the peaceful outlet
for frustration and social inclusion they so
desperately seek. Youth engagement needs to be
addressed, as does the identification and bringing
to justice of the spoilers and criminal elements.

18. Nevertheless, we see the Maikona gathering, and
its ilk, as a positive step forward in stabilizing
Northern Kenya's security environment that other

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warring communities, the Samburu and Rendille in
particular, may try to replicate (see Ref A). These
developments take place in the context of intensive
efforts by the Ambassador and Mission team to
encourage conflict resolution in this region (Ref
E). We will continue to encourage both the
political class and local communities to engage in
dialogue to stop the cycle of violence. End

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