I have to mention here that my analysis of the root causes and the immediate cause of the conflict may be different. We are planning to engage our scholars to do research on these conflicts and propose solutions to mitigate it. We will have panel discussions at OSA’s Mid-Year and annual conferences dedicated to helping find a solution that brings durable peace for all the peoples of the region. We are working very hard to bring scholars from the different groups by origin.
Who is to blame for the violence that has rocked Moyale since December 2011
This is a question that leaders in the country are trying to grapple with amid blame game and counter accusations among locals and the government.
The blame net is being cast wide, from MPs to elders and the Jubilee government, which has been accused of failing to stop the slaughter of innocent people.
As the chairman of Moyale Peace Committee, Mr Abdi Shakur observes, there exists bad blood between members of his Borana community and their brothers, the Gabras.
“There is a lot hatred that has been building over the years and it has never been addressed,” Mr Shakur told Nation in an interview.
Marsabit Governor Ukur Yattani concurs with Mr Shakur.
“The hatred in deep rooted but the killings in Moyale would have been prevented if action was taken early. Deploying KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) was rather too late,” Mr Yattani who won the seat on a ODM ticket said in a telephone interview.
Mr Yattani adds a spanner in the works by claiming that the clashes are a scheme engineered by some of his political rivals to sabotage his administration and place the county under the national government.
This argument has been dismissed by Borana leaders who say security is a function of the national government.
Administrators however lay the blame on elected leaders, saying they are not ready to hold talks.
“We have made all efforts to bring together all the leaders from Boranas and Gabras in vain. They were called to Nairobi and snubbed the summons. So the problem is not the government but political leaders who do not want peace,” said Moyale deputy commissioner, Kamunyan Chedotum.
However, a group of Gabra and Burji elders are blaming Mr Chedotum saying he is biased and favours their rivals who are in the Jubilee Coalition.
“When our vehicles are attacked and torched by Boranas, why it is that no one is arrested? We have reported several other incidents of arson and no action is taken,” the group’s spokesman Edwin Gababo asked.
Not within his jurisdiction.
But in rejoinder, Mr Chedotum retorted that the Sololo area that came under attack was not within his jurisdiction.
“Here in Moyale we have arrested several people and charged them with various offences, so where is the bias?” he asked.
But the rivalry between Boranas and Gabras can be traced back to the early 1990’s when the late North Horr MP Bonaya Godana was appointed Foreign Affairs minister.
At the time, the country had launched a campaign to help the Ethiopian government flush out members of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) – a rebel group trying to oust the government in Addis Ababa.
Both Gabras and Boranas belong to the Oromo speaking group that inhabits a large section of Southern Ethiopia. They speak the Borana language and also share the same names.
As an Oromo, Dr Godana was not received kindly by Boranas. They were all fighting to overthrow the government in Addis Ababa.
So to most Boranas the late minister had betrayed their cause.
And they embarked on a move to flush out Gabras from Region Four area of Southern Ethiopia or Oromia region as it is commonly known.
Gabras then went to seek refuge either in Marsabit or in Region Five area or Somali region. The region is occupied by the Garre community, a clan of Somali community.
Since Dr Godana became increasingly powerful, Borana leaders led by the late Saku MP, Abdi Tari Sasura and late Moyale MP Dr Guracha Galgalo started accusing him of trying to make Northern Kenya a Gabra territory by using his influence to put members of his community in key positions.
The fight for political dominance in Marsabit started with all the leaders including the late Laisamis MP Titus Ngoyoni rallying behind Mr Sasura.
During this time, Gabras living in Huri Hills area of Chalbi Sub-County were accused of killing Borana youths seeking shelter among their people.
The youths used to venture into Marsabit Forest from the Oromia Region in Ethiopia to kill elephants as the culture of Boranas demands that for a young man to get married he has to kill a big animal like an elephants to prove his manhood. If he cannot, then he will not get a bride.
And since Marsabit forest was the nearest elephants sanctuary, Borana youths would target the place.
They would therefore cross the common border in Forolle and seek shelter at Huri Hills – a forest area where Boranas have settled to grow food crops.
Gabras had been displaced by Boranas from Oromia region and as it is alleged they got the opportunity to revenge as Huri Hills is considered their territory.
This is how the conflict between Boranas and Gabras intensified.
And both the late Dr Godana and Mr Sasura would censure each other in public – with each accusing the other of provoking violence, heightening the tension further. Marsabit Town where the two communities live became one of the most insecure places in the country.
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This culminated to the infamous Turbi Massacre of July 2005 when Borana militias said to be from Ethiopia overrun Turbi Trading Centre and killed at least 100 people – most of who were school children.
Efforts to broker peace between Boranas and Gabras started with the assistance of the late assistant minister for Internal Security, Mirugi Kariuki. But a military aircraft carrying the leaders crashed at Kona Mbaya Hill in Marsabit Mountain in 2006.
Those on board included Dr Godana, Mr Sasura, Dr Galgalo, Mr Ngoyoni and Mr Kariuki.
After the death the frequent killings that used to occur in Marsabit subsided as new Members of Parliament were elected. However, the killings returned again in the run-up to this year’s elections.
A researcher James Ndung’u recently said Boranas and Gabras only fight when there is a political pronouncement like a general election.
Mr Ndung’u whose research for his master’s thesis was based on conflict in Marsabit argued that without politics, the Boranas and Gabras have no problem with each other.