Pastoralist conflict on Kenya-Sudan-Uganda border

In the border region of Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, pastoralists migrate in search of water and pasture. With limited access to water and competing rights to land, inter-tribal conflict arises when pastoralists from one tribe enter the territory of another. The increased availability of small arms in the region from past wars increasingly makes ordinary clashes fatal. Governments in the region have responded with heavy-handed coercive disarmament operations. These have led to violent clashes between communities and security providers.

The paper Pastoralists at war: violence and security in the Kenya-Sudan-Uganda border region published in 2009 in the International Journal of Conflict and Violence (Vol. 3 (2): 188–203) reviews the scale, consequences of and responses to such pastoralist conflicts.

It was found that the factors contributing to pastoralist conflict are multidimensional and have ramifications that affect liveli­hoods within and across borders. Governments have failed to invest sufficient human and financial capital in abating the conflict and the underlying underdevelopment in the pastoral regions. Given the poor disarma­ment record of governments and the fact that they lack the capacity to conduct simultaneous cross-border disar­mament programmes, disarmament does not appear to be a palatable option until there has been a full overhaul of the security sector supported by policies to address the demand for small arms.

The efforts of local conflict-mitigation organisations have proved to be an effective alternative to the desta­bilising disarmament initiatives. As a result, a culture of pastoralism is emerging that relies more heavily on local instruments of conflict response as opposed to programmes that prematurely disarm insecure communities. When communities no longer face threats from neighbour­ing groups and inadequate security providers, weapons will lose their utility and worth, and voluntary disarmament will be an appropriate answer to the small-arms dilemma in this region.

Posted on 24 September 2016 in Pastoralism & Peacebuilding