Working to End the Cycle of Violence in the Tribal Lands of Eastern Africa

Mediating the Gabra and Borana in Northern Kenya

Mediating the Gabra and Borana in Northern Kenya

056By Godfrey Okoth

The Gabra and Borana, the two largest communities occupying Marsabit County in northern Kenya, have a long past of sometimes violent competition over scarce resources. More recently, conflicts over political positions and new administrative boundaries driven by the desire for political power have become commonplace among the Gabra and Borana. Since 2010, Shalom has been involved in conflict resolution trainings for the two communities.

Last year, the state actors and religious leaders from Marsabit asked Shalom to facilitate a two-day workshop on “Conflict Resolution within the Devolved System of Governance.” At the same time, Shalom initiated a thorough research process to establish the root causes of the conflict. Despite tension, the Shalom team was able to visit the two communities and interview various groups of people from both sides in the conflict.

One of those was Mzee (the Swahili respectful name used to refer to an old man) Joseph Mollu Oba, a 74-year-old elder from Marsabit County, who joined the action group in Sololo after Shalom’s first workshop in Marsabit. Joseph is a retired catechist and is married with one wife and eight children.

Joseph’s wisdom connects closely to Shalom’s guiding ethics. As a respected elder, he has been focusing on issues of conflict resolution within his community. In the face of deep rooted conflict between the Borana and Gabra, Joseph believes that there is no easy roadmap for conflict resolution. “There is no shortcut or simple remedy for healing the wounds and divisions,” he told our trainers.

Additionally, Joseph recognizes that building trust and understanding between communities immersed in conflict is extremely challenging: “It is crucial within the process of building a durable peace.” Joseph told us that exploring the issues involved in a conflict, acknowledging the issues and understanding them together as communities, is the best way to guarantee that the conflict does not reoccur. Joseph was grateful for the training which he received from Shalom and looked forward to receiving more from our team – and helpig us to bring peace to the Borana and Gabra.

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