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Degodia intra-community dialogue paves way for Kenya and Ethiopia cross border unity

June 26, 2023
Est. Reading: 3 minutes

As the sun's warm rays illuminated the arid landscape of Rhamu in Mandera County on the morning of March 11th, 2023, a palpable sense of anticipation filled the air. The Degodia community in Kenya was preparing for a historic meeting that would bring together their kin from across the border in Ethiopia to address the ongoing sporadic killings that had plagued the county, often attributed to cross-border conflicts spilling over to Kenya. Last year, the Banisa sub-county in Mandera experienced conflicts seeping from the borders of Ethiopia's Dawa and Liban Zone, which is home to both the Garre and Degodia communities, respectively. The sporadic killings threatened the fragile peace that had been painstakingly achieved in Banisa since 2018.

Interpeace, through the Kenya programme and in collaboration with the Mandera County Government, for the first time brought together elders of the Degodia community and representatives from the Degodia clan's King, Wabar Abdille. The attendees included Wabar Abdille's cabinet, the Mandera County Deputy Governor, elected members of the County Assembly, and senior county government officials. Their shared goal was to establish an inclusive cross-border approach to address the conflict triggers and discord in the Banisa sub-county, fostering cooperation and trust between the cross-border communities.

Throughout the meeting, participants engaged in discussions surrounding critical issues. They emphasised the need to break the cycle of retaliatory attacks, build trust in security agencies, and ensure compliance with previous agreements such as the Banisa declaration. Similarly, the elders highlighted the importance of revisiting the Banisa Declaration agreement and proposed revising the document to establish a more binding and comprehensive cross-border agreement that involves the people of Banisa, Malkamari of Kenya, and the cross-border Dawa and Liban Zone of Ethiopia.

In addition, the Ethiopian elders revealed that talks with their Garre counterparts had already begun on the Ethiopian side, signalling promising developments in peacebuilding efforts to initiate efforts to resolve the underlying issues on the Ethiopian side.

"We have taken up the responsibility to amicably resolve issues between the Garre and Degodia clans in Liban and Dawa zones, and we promise that there will be no or less spillovers henceforth," said Sheikh Omar- Advisor to the Wabar Abdille.

Towards the end of the meeting, a significant milestone was achieved. For the first time, the elders signed an intra-community cross-border agreement between the Degodia Elders from Kenya and Ethiopia. The agreement outlined actionable steps, including strengthening efforts to resolve conflicts in Ethiopia's Mubarak District and collaborating with the administrations of the Liban and Dawa zones. Furthermore, the meeting paved the way for future encounters between Wabar Abdille and Sultan Mohamed, traditional leaders of the Degodia and Garre clans, respectively, to initiate effective cross-border peacebuilding collaborations.

Thanking the delegation who attended the meeting, Interpeace’s Kenya Country Representative, Hassan Ismail, called on the leaders to help pacify the cross-border region.

“We recognise that we cannot sustain everlasting peace by only working on the Kenya side. We shall engage our development partners, specifically the German Federal Foreign Office to also support us in doing similar work in Dawa and the Liban Zone of Ethiopia. That way, local resilience for peace can be assured and sustained.”

The significance of engaging the cross-border community through such an inclusive meeting cannot be overstated. Previous peacebuilding efforts had focused solely on Kenya, neglecting the situation in Ethiopia. The timing of this meeting was crucial, as the Banisa sub-county had experienced an upsurge in cross-border conflicts and retaliatory attacks between November 2022 and February 2023. The gathering instilled hope for a brighter future that would end the conflicts, promote resource sharing, and enhance collaboration between the Garre and Degodia communities in Kenya and Ethiopia.

"This meeting has allowed us to achieve what we couldn't achieve for the past decade; it will be the beginning of a long-term peacebuilding engagement with our kin from Ethiopia,” emphasized Haji Bare Hassan, District Peace Committee Chairman, Mandera North Sub-County.

The intra-community dialogue meeting concluded with a sense of unity and optimism, paving the path for future inter-community dialogues scheduled for this year. With the support from the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the dialogue will, for the first time, bring together Degodias and Garre community members from both Kenya and Ethiopia to establish a sustainable, binding cross-border agreement that would bring the two communities to a uniform resolution, unlike the previous Banisa declaration that was centered in Kenya only.