A Durable Solution to The Garissa-Isiolo Border Conflict Must be Prioritized
It is with profound sadness that 26 lives have been lost and dozens others injured in the recent conflict between two communities living around the borders of Garissa and Isiolo counties. This is not the first time lives have been lost in such senseless act of violence between the two communities. Unfortunately this tragedy and many before it tells us that this matter is not a priority for the leaders including the security actors.The unnecessary loss of lives since independence just points a finger at failed leadership and concerted effort by professionals, business people, politicians and all other stakeholders to bring this conflict to an end.
Kenyans are episodic reactors. Our attention span is as long as a news item. Our leaders are no better because they either lack the skills to resolve conflicts or they thrive on community conflict only thinking of the election cycle.
A nomads’ social and economic backbone is his or her animals. All their wealth has legs and people whose wealth walks are almost always in a fight mode. This is the psychology of the nomad not because of their nature but because of their nurture. The nomads in Northern Kenya have been marginalized for so many years and economically excluded from the national cake that all they think they can have is what they fight for. They have been accustomed to the scarce resource they fight for and self serving politicians do not help because it enslaves the nomads for them. The dam has now broken and subtle slavery methodology to subjugate the nomad has been exposed. The nomads fight not because of land, that is just a symptom. They fight because they do not have water and pasture in what they call their land. This is the A and Z of their conflict.
The long-standing conflict between these two comunities of Isiolo and Garissa is a symptom of leadership failure. Nomads face loads of challenges and exhibit trauma of acting outing because of the failure of leadership. The conflict is a result of scarce water and pasture. The nomads move their animals in such of pasture and water. They have no any other business to move. Politicians and other stakeholders either understand this or feign ignorance for the same reason the urban politician looks the other way in regards to slums and homelessness. They say the first step to a solution is to recognize the problem, the second is to know it. There is a thin line between the two that almost always determines the quality of their resolution. We think the solution to this longstanding tragedy requires only two ingredients. Leadership and focused prudent use of resources. It is simple. We do not need reactive politicians who only react after death and destruction. We need proactive leadership that thinks strategically. We do not need self-serving politicians who chest thump only looking at the next election cycle. We need self-less leaders who are sobber and genuinely believe in protecting lives and addressing the perenial nomad problem. The resources are availabel albeit abused. 7 years after devolution, the two counties of Isiolo and Garissa received more than 85 billion shillings of public money. How much water can 85 billion shillings provide? How many boreholes and reservoir dams can it create to provide water required by the pastoralists and their animals? With focus and efficient use of the resources this could easily turn the whole of NFD into an ever-green landscape where grass is always in surplus and water available to all. Our people should be selling grade cows instead of fighting over emaciated cattle in a barren land. This could only happen when their resources in the county coffers and the central government treasury is prudently used and honestly managed by those they entrusted it with.
Some politicians react emotionally to a situation that requires sobriety and balance and therefore fan the flames of conflict. Leaders from all walks of life have failed in this endeavour. From professionals to politicians, preachers to peasants, every one has failed to play a consistent role in finding a solution to this 56 years old problem. We have all been reactive, some more than others but we have treated this challenge like it does not matter. Nomad lifes matter and if we do not show that they matter, other parties with peripheral interests have no reason to and it is lame to blame them. This is our problem and the solution should come from us because it is we, the nomads and their leaders, politicians and professionals, who understand the culture and the context of those involved in this conflict. The rest can only play a peripheral role. The cry to war by politicians and their call to the security agencies to intervene whenever battles break out is a shame. This is only a sticking plaster solution to what needs a durable, long-thought answers. Let leaders meet the needs of the nomads and their animals by prudent use of the public resources and the conflict could be a thing of the past.