Building Peace in Mandera, One Step at a Time
December 20, 2016
For three days between 14-16 December 2016, a cross-section of stakeholders from Mandera County held a peacebuilding forum in Mandera town, along Kenya’s tri-border with Somalia and Ethiopia, to validate the findings of the consultative phase of the Mandera Peacebuilding Programme.
The programme is jointly implemented in Mandera County by Interpeace and Kenya’s National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office. Its objective is to achieve sustainable, long term peace in Mandera County through the collective identification of the challenges to peace and the participatory development of consensus-based solutions to the challenges.
Towards this end, the Mandera programme aims to integrate grassroots aspirations for peace, building upon local capacities and providing a strategic link with decision and policy makers at the county and national level. Its approach marks a departure from past peace initiatives, which were largely top-down interventions mobilised to contain specific situations that had already escalated into violence.
Participants at the forum included Mandera Governor Ali Roba, Senator Billow Kerrow, NCIC CEO Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, all Members of Parliament from the County and other local leaders, Interpeace’s Johan Svensson and representatives of the local communities.
The forum was officially opened by Governor Roba, who set the stage by denouncing the clannism that has long made peace elusive for residents of Mandera.
“When a wrong is committed, let us focus on the individuals suspected of culpability, not their clans collectively,” Governor Roba said in his opening remarks.
Mandera’s population is mainly ethnic Somali. Despite being almost homogenous in the ethnic sense, rivalries between the four main clans – the Garreh, Murule, Degodia and the ‘Corner tribes,’ which are the smaller clans – have often led to episodes of conflict, which periodically degenerate into violent clashes. The conflicts, traditionally fuelled by competition over resources, have been exacerbated by new conflict drivers such as competition between clans for political influence, disputes over land and rampant insecurity due to constant attacks by Al Shabaab militants from Somalia.
The devolution of governance in Kenya, which was a key plank in a new Constitution adopted in 2010, has intensified competition for political positions, perceived as a guarantee for access to economic resources by the “winning” clans to the disadvantage of the “losing” clans. This contestation over political posts has emerged as a critical point of concern for the residents of Mandera ahead of local and national elections scheduled for 2017.
Considering the complexity of the situation, stakeholders resolved that all hands are needed on deck to make sustainable peace a reality for the people of Mandera.
“Everyone has a role in building lasting peace,” said Mr Johan Svensson, representing Interpeace in Eastern and Central Africa. “It is a process that requires the participation of all the stakeholders across the society.”
The NCIC – formed to facilitate and promote equality of opportunity, good relations, harmony and peaceful coexistence between persons of different ethnic, colour, religious and racial backgrounds in Kenya – has pledged its full support in bridging between the vertical space between the aspirations of grassroots communities in Mandera and grassroots populations at the national level.
“We take issues of peace very seriously, and we will spare no effort in facilitating this initiative to bring lasting peace to Mandera,” NCIC’s CEO Hassan Sheikh Mohamed said.
The role of social media also came into focus at the forum, with participants urging the NCIC to educate Kenyans on the responsible use of social media to help avert poll violence.
“Social media is useful, but let us not allow it to fuel divisions. We are Muslims – we are a people of peace,” said Mandera Women Representative Fathia Mahboub.