By Mary Koech MA, Program Officer
The town of Tuum is in the North of Samburu County and approximately 24 kilometers from Baragoi Town. The community is predominantly inhabited by the Samburu ethnic group. Tuum is a pastoralist community with few members of the community venturing into farming of fruits and vegetables for both subsistence and commercial purposes. During the dry season, communities have to go out further and further away from their homes to look for pasture and water. This sometimes leaves some of them prone to cattle rustlers.
Parkati is also in Samburu County, less than 25 kilometers from Tuum. It is a small village inhabited by the Turkana community. The residents of Parkati depend on their livestock for their livelihood. The hardship area of Parkati rarely receives rainfall and thus drought is a major challenge that they face which contributes to the struggle to get water and pasture for their animals. Parkati has really been left behind in terms of development with rocky paths that act as roads, making it hard to reach, no medical centers are available there and has only one school. As a result, many remain illiterate and cannot find jobs and thus the cycle repeats itself.
The two communities have lived in close proximity for years though when other conflicts take place between the Samburu and Turkana in other locations, negative effects are felt on the co-existence between these two communities. Until recently, (April 2015) the two communities would frequently interact, with many Turkanas from Parkati visiting Tuum to conduct business and to meet with friends. Alarmingly, increasing suspicions have caused both communities to take action like keeping watch at night and putting up barriers on the road.
Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation made their second intervention in 2015, to these two locations for a workshop training towards achieving conflict resolution. The goal of the workshop was to enable the participants to understand and make use of the skills of Conflict Resolution and apply them in resolving two party and multi-party conflicts. The topic of the workshop was very appropriate and well-timed.
With the tension between the two communities, this topic would allow the participants to gain the basic knowledge on the best ways of resolving conflicts. Most of the time the elders of both communities play the role of mediator and judge and having women and youth as well as some elders gain additional knowledge on the best strategies of finding a solution that fits the interests of both communities would have a greater impact.
This is because the skills could be applied at the basic level of disputes, conflicts at the family level, at the school level, as well as greater conflicts between ethnic groups. Participants engaged keenly in role plays where they would play-out a dialogue-negotiation process. At the end of it, their fellow participants would critique their techniques based on the skills they learnt like the importance of listening. As Shalom completed the workshops, the common sentiment felt by participants in both locations was the need for dialogue to take place, interests and needs to be articulated and expressed, as a foundational step for sustainable peace to flourish.