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Facilitating intra- and inter-community dialogue in Mandera to cease hostilities

February 2, 2023
Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Mandera County, located in the Mandera Triangle, is home to the Garre, Degodia, Murulle, and Corner tribes, and shares an international border with Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the east. This region is home to a complex cultural-political framework among the various ethnic Somali clans living across the borders of the three host countries. In December of 2022, inter-clan clashes erupted in Mandera County, resulting in 10 deaths and numerous injuries. The violence was a stark reminder of the fragility of peace in the region. On 20 December 2022, a man from the Garre tribe was tragically killed in Malkawila, Ethiopia, sparking a series of retaliatory attacks by his community on a Degodia village near Chiroqo in Kenya.

In response to the clashes, Interpeace, in coordination with officials from the Mandera county government and with the support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, held intercommunity peace dialogues with the Garre and Degodia communities. These meetings were divided into preliminary intra- and inter-communal gatherings for a ceasefire and a joint peace caravan for community sensitization, aimed at achieving a cessation of hostilities and restoring normalcy.

Ceasefire talks between the Garre and Degodia

On 21 December 2022, 180 members of the Garre community gathered with the county governor, Mohamed Adan Khalif, Banisa MP, Kulow Maalim Hassan, and other Garre political leaders to discuss the recent skirmishes. The community then held an internal self-reflection meeting on 22-23 December 2022 to plan for the restitution of the murdered Degodia community members and the one Garre killed on the Kenyan side.

Traditionally, if a member of one clan kills a member of another clan, the victim's clan avenges the death by taking action against the killer clan. In 2019, Interpeace negotiated the Banisa Peace Accord, which stipulated that the offenders' group would pay compensation (dia) to the group of the deceased as a reparation in lieu of the offender's life. However, speaking on the implementation of restitution, Hon. Rtd. Major Bashir Abdullah, the Member of Parliament for Mandera North, noted that money settlement has proven to be ineffective. Despite the increase in compensation from KES 1M to KES 4.5M, the killings have not ceased, leaving many to pursue other forms of restitution.

“We urge you, our people, to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. If you hear I was killed by the Garre do not revenge for me, arrest the criminals,” said the Hon. Bashir.

Following extensive consultations, the village elders agreed to immediately cease hostilities and killings in reprisal for the Degodia in Kenya and on the other side of the border, as directed by the local leaders. After much deliberation, the Garre community decided to pursue a restitution plan that would provide justice for the victims and their families, while also preventing further violence.

Joint peace caravan for community sensitization

Political leaders from the county and neighbouring Wajir County, community elders, members of the Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (CMC), and the peacebuilding team recently convened in Guba, Chiroqo, and Malkamari for a peace rally to express their condolences to the Degodia community and to encourage them to commit to peace and refrain from taking revenge for the clan members killed.

The leaders used the rally to emphasise the importance of upholding peace and avoiding retaliation, imploring the Degodia in Guba to ensure that no further incidents occurred and that an immediate ceasefire was established. They also reminded the community of the consequences of retaliatory violence and the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully.

"It is forbidden to kill an innocent soul. The Quran forbids it, and anyone who does it—whether in retribution or for any other reason—will spend eternity in hell fire. According to our religion, and based on appearances, even as your leaders, the crimes done by our people would definitely condemn us to damnation. It is terribly unfortunate that you are leading us astray," stated Kullow Maalim Hassan, MP, Banisa.

The Peace Caravan then visited Chiroqo and reiterated the same message of preserving the ceasefire and refraining from retaliatory actions. However, the locals expressed their concern that they had been consistently affected by the Garre-Degodia dispute. In response, inter- and intra-communal engagements were supported by political goodwill and stakeholders from both the Garre and Degodia communities, culminating in a series of peace rallies in Banisa Town, Guba, Choroqo, and Malka Mari. This ultimately resulted in an agreement for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to peace and stability.

Forging ahead

Inter-communal divisions and conflicts in Dawa and Liban zone in Ethiopia whose retaliation happens in Kenya remains a major obstacle to peacebuilding efforts. It is essential that all stakeholders collaborate to ensure lasting peace. Interpeace recommends that continued focus be placed on resolving inter-Garre and Degodia conflicts for the greater good of Mandera County; that broader cross-border engagements be initiated to reach a lasting resolution to cross-border and internal conflicts; and that county ceasefire monitoring committees (CMCs) be trained to equip them with the necessary skills and resources for early warning and response systems to avert violent conflicts.