MOYALE CONFLICTS: The Actors, the Contests and the Interest

February 20, 2014 (Ardaa Jilaa)


AUTHOR: Anonymous  


The content of this paper is based on observations and outcomes of discussions the author had with various people from Marsabit County in general and mostly with those from Moyale. Included in this paper are also information gleaned from local media reports on Moyale conflict and write-ups posted on various websites. This paper is not an objective research work as such but it is more of personal reflection and interpretation of the information received which seem to lean more on perspective shared by most people who are sympathetic to Borans cause in the on-going conflict.

The author begins by giving a brief historical overview of Marsabit County with focus on fluctuating relationships between its communities at various times. He goes to narrate highlights of key events that fed directly into escalation of current conflict. An insight analysis of key actors in the conflict including their role and objective are aptly captured. After pointing out what he sees as the limitations and shortcoming of past attempts at resolving conflicts in the north, he offers the suggestions on possible resolutions mechanism with immediate shot term and long term time frame.


2.1 Location and Moyale Area Profile

Moyale is the name of two major towns in Marsabit County as well as one of the four constituencies making up the county. As constituency it boarders Wajir county to the East and Ethiopia boarder to the North. Marsabit County along with other counties like Samburu, Turkana, Wajir, Mandera and Isiolo constitutes the vast arid and semi arid land mass that is home to mostly pastoral people groups include Samburu, Turkana, Rendille Gabra, Boran and various Somali linked clans the most prominent being Garri, Degodia, Sakuye and Ajuran. Other communities from various parts of Kenya are also present but mostly confined to towns and other settlement centers.

Moyale constituency has a population of 80,650 people as per 2009 census but based on the population growth rate of 2.4% the figure is projected to 88,676. It is estimated that all the semi-arid lands in northern Kenya constitutes about 440,000km sq. supports 25% of the country’s population.

Most parts of Marsabit County are arid except for some areas around Marsabit mountain and hurri hills. Due to scarcity of natural resources like pasture and water competition over the use, access and control of these resources is often the main cause of conflict among pastoral communities especially during the dry spell when livestock tend to concentrate in limited areas with pasture and water.

Northern region of Kenya has remained undeveloped for a long time. It has virtually been excluded from the mainstream of Kenyans national life. Actually some communities from this region came to regards themselves as Kenyans only recently. The rest of Kenyan communities perceive northern Kenya as the region which is most undesirable place to live or work in. it therefore come as no surprise that even civil servants posted here feel punished and less motivated to serve the communities in this region. Incidences of incessant conflicts associated with this region just serves to undermine the morale of such civil servant even more. Due its isolation, insecurity and marginal productivity donors are less inclined to invest in this area.

2.2 Past Relation between Moyale People

Long before the advent of colonial power and demarcation of Kenya Ethiopia border Borans and Gabra were known to roam the region stretching from the interior of Ethiopia near hagermariam to what is present day Marsabit in Kenya. The boundary which was drawn up by British and Italian colonial powers split both Borans and Gabra communities who now live on both sides of the boarder. Other communities which include Garri Burji and Ajuran Somali and some Arab linked groups would occasionally come to the area as traders and eventually settled in Moyale town and other settlement centres through the courtesy of the then Boran larders

The attraction of these other communities to Moyale area is mainly because of its strategic location. The town is an important gateways that allows the trans-clan and trans-national trade network for the movement of goods and people. Cattle and small ruminants are taken across the border from Ethiopia into Kenya. The proceeds from the sale of animals are used to purchase manufactured goods and food commodities

Borans and Gabra have lived together for generations and developed strong kinship linkage and peaceful coexistence in both Kenya and Ethiopia. Elsewhere outside the region the relationship between various people groups can best be described as dynamic some of which are amicable, some discriminatory and others outright hostile but usually not on permanent basis

In Moyale available pasture and water resource s were jointly used, but Boran elders held the vested responsibility of moderating the usage of the said resources and its protection against external threats. It appears this responsibility is pegged on their numerical strength and by virtue of being the first inhabitants of the land. Traditional elders played an important role in regulating the affairs of their communities. They were mostly instrumental in resolving both intra and inter tribal conflicts. Their decision carried the foresight that ensured social harmony and continuity of their communities for generation. Even when compensation has to be paid for the wrong done this was usually tempered with some degree of tolerance and flexibility so as to convey a gesture of good will to further preserve the relationship between parties in conflict.

Most members of pastoral communities are not educated and have limited marketable skills. They considered livestock as source of wealth, social status symbol and insurance against life risks. It is only in the last twenty years or so that they settled down on permanent villages and begun taking their children to school and got involved in wage labour market in its many forms.

3.0 Changes Experienced by the Pastoral Communities of Moyale:

3.1 Political Change:

Just like in other parts of Kenya and Ethiopia diverse changes have taken place in the lives of traditional pastoral communities of Moyale. One of the most pronounced change is the diminished authority of the elders who used to regulate every aspect of communities affairs in the past. With the advent of the government systems of leadership steady shift in values and social priorities became entrenched in the societal structures as government appointed institutions and functionaries like chiefs and their assistance replaced traditional leaders. As it often happen such government appointees do not often share the same values that used to guide the traditional elders in discharge of their leadership responsibilities. It therefore comes as no surprise when government appointees become susceptible to corrupt and opportunistic tendencies that have come to jeopardize community social welfare as well as their security well being

This explains why even the old practice of cattle rustling among pastoralists has now acquired a new meaning. In the past neighboring communities rustle animals from each so as to restock their diminishing herds after severe drought or disease outbreak to avert economic ruin and starvation. But now cattle rustling are no longer done to replenish diminished stock. It is a well organized commercial enterprise carried out with full knowledge and tacit support of corrupt government admin and security personnel who obviously have a stake in the proceeds of this heinous crime.

3.3 Emergence of new economic power Barons

Over the past couple of decades, the previous minority Burji and Garri communities in Moyale were able to gradually develop economically to emerge as undisputed economic power barons in northern Kenya, with extended business network in major towns in Kenya and Ethiopia. It can be argued that their economic success is a key factor in giving them visibility and influence with government functionaries which is far beyond their numerical status. Buoyed by their economic success they used the same networking strategy to cleverly build formidable political power base and gained the support of key government functionaries through tactical diplomatic manoeuvres and extension of varied forms of favours.

While one would normally celebrate the economic development and acceleration of urbanization process brought about by influx of skillful people from interior of Ethiopia and Kenya but unfortunately the recent breed of immigrants are decidedly opportunistic with no regards for the historical ties that original inhabitants of the land had together. With their external connections and business experiences this new business community soon become more visible in urban centres and gained recognition with government administrators and security functionaries who easily got roped into their orbit. It is this partnership of convenience that can explains the unusual situation in Moyale where a few business men seem to operate above the law and engage in all manner of unlawful activities which include gun running, smuggling of goods across the border and human trafficking as well

On the other hands Borans and Gabra were content to continue with their pastoral lifestyles which depend mostly on livestock and subsistence farming for their sustenance. It is only in the recent past that some members of these two pastoral communities ventured into the world of business and are now trying to catch up with their Garri and Burji counterparts.

3.3 Diminishing Profile of Boran Community in Moyale Constituency

Boran community in Moyale constituency has gone through several changes over the year which partially explains the situation they found themselves in today. Though still numerically the majority in Marsabit County and partially in Moyale constituency but their fortunes on both political and economic fronts have not matched their numerical status. They have actually steadily lost grounds to other ethnic in the area.

Socially they appear unhinged from their traditionally social-cultural and spiritual anchorage since they abandoned their original customs and kinship linkages after embracing Islam through their contact with Garri and other Muslim groups that came to Moyale at various Time in past. Unfortunately, even after embracing islam.0ther Muslim communities do not seem to accord them due recognition and acceptance as fellow believers in Islam umma. It is not uncommon to hear these other communities derogatorily refer to Muslim Borans as ’kufar’ infidels. Could this explain why they are being killed and their property plundered contrary to Islamic teachings that enjoin brotherhood of all Muslim believers? Ironically, it is the Boran of Ethiopia (who still follows their traditional beliefs) that came to rescue of Kenyan Borans who were recently under vicious attack from their Gabra /Garri Muslim brothers! Is this case of blood being thicker than faith?

To a casual observer, some of the characteristics that Borans of Moyale seems to have acquired from their new social-cultural identity are: the selfish individual tendencies, unhealthy criticism of each other and obsession with clan-based political rivalry which echoes the kind malady that the people in Somalia suffer from. For some strange reason, they appear oblivious of economic opportunities around them and put no premium on the value of partnership and interdependent working arrangement that other communities have put to good use and prospered. blindly believing in their numerically invincibility, their leaders seems more focused on competition for leadership among their different clans while other communities were quietly consolidating their economic gains and building formidable business and political networks both in Kenya and Ethiopia .

It is note worth that their relatives in Ethiopia, who still keep their traditional values and beliefs system, have strong sense of solidarity, functional social structures and recognizable chains of leadership outside the normal government systems. They have successfully defended their dignity in the face of numerous challenges from both the present government of Ethiopia and other rival communities in their region.

3.4 Beyond numerical statistics: Gun power counts.

Another key factor that has altered the traditional dynamics of relationships between pastoral communities is the proliferation of the sophisticated fire arms. Gone are the days of spears and clubs. Proximity of Moyale to the porous border with Ethiopia and Somalia has significantly contributed to steady inflow of fire arms and infiltration various armed groups available to be hired as mercenaries.

Depending on its access to arms supply, a given community’s power status is no longer determined by its numerical figure. This reality is amply demonstrated in the on- going conflict around Moyale where  the minority Gabra  community , with access to endless supplies of weaponry procured by Burjis business tycoons and tactical support from police, were able to dislodge Borans communities from several parts of Moyale . This new form of power has greatly undermined traditional cultured of reciprocity and mutual respect. Those who wield the power of the guns know no limits and pay little attention to the values and relational ties of the past.

4.0 Causes and nature of the current conflicts in the Moyale:

4.1 Historical overview of relational strain between communities in Moyale

Traditional relational networks and authority of elders that used to hold different communities together for generations seem to be on a steady decline. This is attributable to a number of factors which include emergence of new source of authority, economic systems that fall outside the sphere of elders’ influence, multiparty interest in conflicts and radical politics developments in Somalia, Ethiopia and even Kenya. For instance the ‘shiftas’ movement that was active in northern frontier district of Kenya’s independent in the 1960s opened a new chapter in the history of the pastoral communities of Northern Kenya. The Garri, Marrehan and other Somali groups who were armed by the Somalia government to facilitate session process of northern communities, turned their guns on poorly armed Boran communities both in Ethiopia and Kenya, leaving hundreds of themdead and robbed of their livestock. This bitter experience is one reason why Borans have always been wary of any Somali-linked people group coming into their area. It was also during this period when the force and value of the gun-power came to be fully understood by Boran communities in Ethiopia.

Being aware of how they were viewed suspiciously by Borans communities, Garri strategists and their Somali associates changed tact. Instead of engaging Borans in battle, they sent an army of sheikhs and imams armed with nothing but the Quran and other Islamic books. These sheikhs and itinerants preachers cum traders were successfully in Islamizing Boran leaders and their communities in Kenya. with the benefits of hindsight , it seemed the main intent of such religious outreach was not actually to embed Boran people into doctrine of Islamic faith. Their conversion  was basically used as the mean of ‘roping’ them into the fold of Islam so as enable Garris and other Somali-linked groups to gain unhindered access to their and peacefully exploit the vast business opportunities which Borans did not even aware of. This would explain why there are few Borans who have solid grasp of Islamic doctrines to qualify becoming kadhis and imams of mosques in their land. Nearly all sheikhs and Imams operating in Boran land are from other Somali-linked communities.

4.2 Political Change in Ethiopia:

The overthrow of Emperor Haile Sellasie of Ethiopia in 1974 ushered in rapid changes in social and economic condition of people in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya to some extent .it was during this period of political turmoil that thousand of Ethiopia fled from the interior and settled in two Moyale towns of Kenya and Ethiopia. Another development that follows shortly afterward was the Ogaden war between Somali and Ethiopia. This war had the effect of militarizing sizeable number of pastoral communities in southern Ethiopia who got drafted into national defense force against Somalia incursion. It was during this period that Borans warriors acquired skills in the use of modern fire arms, they are ever since determined to defend their territories against external aggression, especially from Somali people groups.

4.3 Down turn of Borans’ Political Fortunes in Ethiopia:

The early part of 1990s saw another political unrest in Ethiopia. Combined forces of various rebels groups were viciously fighting the government of Mengistu Haile Mariam. It was a time uncertainty and government’s hold on various parts of the country was slackening .Taking advantage of the prevailing political instability, Garri fighters attempt to annex part of Boran land. Fierce fighting with Boran militia ensured resulting in Garri being forced out of southern Ethiopia and becoming refugees at Walda camp at 100 km from Moyale.

These rebel forces eventually managed to oust Mengistu from power. Shortly afterwards they transformed themselves into political parties and jointly formed a new government. But soon disagreement arose over power sharing arrangement. One party, the Oromo liberation front (OLF) was deeply dissatisfied with the lot in new government and opted to go back to the bush to fight rest alliance headed by Tigrean political party (EPRDF).

The bulk of OLF fighters were from Oromo people groups which included Borans. Even though they were only marginally involve in the political machination of the larger Oromo confederacy. The Borans nonetheless ended up being side-lined by the newly formed government. The immediate beneficiaries of the changed political situation where the Garre who earlier fought with Borans and were forced out of the region. Garre leaders quickly reached out to the new Ethiopia ruling party and offered to support them. The new Ethiopia government, desperate for any support they could get could so as to legitimate its rule and find means of countering OLF influence in southern Ethiopia, quickly reciprocated this gesture of goodwill from Garri leaders. In the subsequent formation of regionalized system of government, Somali zone was created which included parts of Borans land of Goff and Laey. The returning Garri refugees from Kenya were facilitated to settle there and given full government protection against Borans. This political development marked a down of Borans political fortune in Ethiopia. Faced with formidable government force, Borans were helpless to reclaim their land from Garre who now enjoy full state support.

It is turned out that the decision by the OLF to walk out of joint government in protest  was not well thought  through.OLF movement was soon crippled with internal strife and infiltration by state sponsored saboteurs who accelerated their disintegration until they were reduced to wandering bands of militia which criss-crossed southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya in search of safe haven and means of support .Borans  communities not only lost their pasturelands to Garre but were also systematically excluded from political life of the nation and most of their prominent leaders were frequently being harassed and kept under surveillance on account of their supposed linkage  with OLF movement.

4.4 Garri push for inclusion of Moyale in region five (Somali)

Emboldened by their political land gains, Garri reached out to other communities like Gabra  to jointly advocate for the re-drawing of Border between region four (Oromo  region) and region five (Somali region) to include Moyale and all the land lies to the east of the main highway connecting Kenya and Ethiopia . This desire was not readily granted since it was likely to spark off a major war not only between Borans and Garri, but the government would get sucked into it as well. Not willing to give up, Garri leaders continued to explore all avenues available to them to achieve their dream of including the strategic Moyale town into region five.

To its credits, the new Ethiopia government took time to study the profile and the history of all the people groups in southern Ethiopia. Even though Borans were not particularly keen to curry favors with the new government, but they refrained for antagonizing it either. So the government began a cautious process of counting Borans’ support and gradually getting them involved in the governance of region four. This development was not well received by the Garri. So they began scheming to use alternative means to achieve their objective with or without the government’s support .knowing the defeat they suffered at the hand of Borana a few year earlier, they set in motion a secrete process of recruiting foreign fighters from Somalia (read Al-Shabbab) as well as Garre youth who were trained in Kenya ostensibly to support the newly established Somalia government against Al-Shabbab.

Gerri’s move to mobilize formidable fighting force acquired urgency following the rumors about the deteriorating health condition of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. They probably sensed that there was no guarantee that whoever would succeed Zenawi would continue giving them the kind of recognition and favors they enjoyed hitherto. Eager to have Moyale annexed to region five either one way or another they impatiently mobilized their fighting force and engaged Borans in a daring battled around Moyale Ethiopia in the last week of July 2012. For three days gun battle raged resulting in heavy loss of lives and Garri community were forced to flee to Moyale Kenya. It was only the intervention of central government army that halted the fight. All key leaders from both regions five and four arrested and incarcerated by the central government. The prime minister was pronounced dead a few weeks after this incident.

4.5 Gabras embark on their zone creation endevour in Kenya:

Initially the Gabra of Ethiopia identified themselves with region four, but sensing that their low numerical strength would not afford them much political leverage, they opted to join region five instead. They were not comfortable in region five as well. Knowing how ambitious and power hungry their new Garri partners are, they quietly embarked on a long term scheme which was to create their own zone in Moyale Kenya and extend it to Marsabit (North Horr constituency) where their kinsmen already live.

Seemingly they set out to replicate Garre’s strategy on Kenyan side. It basically focused on forcefully removing Borans out of all the lands that lies in eastern part of the LAPSET highway which runs from Isiolo to Ethiopia. The strategy they came up with had four components. One was to push for establishment of exclusively Gabra sub-locations and villages. This was to create safe havens for where they can conduct their affairs unobserved by other neighboring communities. It would seem that the creation of Kinisa and Funan Nyata villages were part of this strategic move.

The second component of the strategy involved partnership building with Garri in region five of Ethiopia, Rendille and Burji in Marsabit County. This partnering process is what culminated in the formation of REGGABU alliance which won all the top seats in the general election held in March this year. They pulled off this feat by taking advantage of the squabbles between two Boran candidates that split their votes.

The third component is the military training of all their young men and facilitation of free movement of their Ethiopian militia whenever their service was required. Apparently one of the reasons for establishing exclusive Gabra sub-locations and villages is to create space for militia training away from the glare of the surrounding communities and for stock piling firearms.

The forth strategy component was to bolster their economic base by venturing into business and trying to tap into the same funding source that Garri and other Muslim communities were benefiting from. Though not as successful as Garri in this regard, but they made impressive progress nonetheless.

Funds was needed to purchase fire arms, support fighters and finance the most delicate aspect of the strategy which is to win the good will and tactical support of government functionaries and security personnel both in Kenya and Ethiopia side. As will be shown hereunder they did an excellent job at getting on board Kenya security and administrative officers to grant them their wish. The perception held by several people in Moyale is that Marsabit county governor is credited to have used his influence and probably the networks within the Kenya government previously established and used by the late Bonaya Godana (Former MP of North Horr and minister in Moi government) to secure support for his community’s war campaign against Borana community in both Kenya and Ethiopia.

The last aspect of strategy which is to be carried when all others are fully in place was to facilitate mass exodus of Gabra community from Ethiopia into Moyale to take up the land from which Boran community would have been forcefully removed. This may sound far-fetched but what actually happened in Moyale over the last few months have to be seen to be believed.

This strategy is by no means a secret. Even ordinary people who are not necessarily from Gabra community were fully aware of the plan. The series of sporadic attacks against Borans villages in different parts of Moyale constituency were meant to trigger reaction that would precipitate further attacks. This would explain why all mediation meetings between Boran and Gabra leaders including one held under the auspice of National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) held at Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi could not stem the tide of violence. Here is quote from the NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunja.

‘’We have initiated dialogues in previous meetings on Moyale which culminated in the signing of a resolution by Gabra and Borana opinion leaders. He said referring to a resolutions penned on December 11th 2011. The resolution arrived at after meeting held at the Bomas of Kenya in the capital Nairobi was signed by eight Borana leaders and seven of their counterparts from the Gabra community.

‘’We regret the senseless loss of life and wanton destruction of property in Moyale recently and condemn the perpetrators in the strongest terms and we urge for the immediate cessation of hostilities and ask all and sundry to give room to dialogue.” Part of the resolution reads.    

Normally one would expect Kenya security and intelligence service personnel in Moyale to be fully aware of what was going on and take the necessary steps to contain the situation. It is rather shocking to realize that when Gabras decided to action their strategy in the month of January 2012, Kenya police force did absolutely nothing to protect the lives of innocent people of their properties against unwarranted Gabra aggression. Here are some specific incidents based on eye-witness accounts of the events.

4.6 Gabra militia unleashes their campaign of conquest:

Reports of heavily armed Gabra militias preparing to attack Mansile and Heilu Boran villages which are ten and five kilometers from Moyale town respectively, was received weeks in advance and all government security and administrative organs were notified of the impending attacks. No action was taken. Interestingly on 2nd of January 2012, as the then Elias Kithaura was conducting what was supposed to be peace meeting in Heilu village, Gabra youth stormed the meeting venue and pelted everyone including the DC with stones. This was immediately followed by heavy gun fire from militia who were right behind the youths. The DC managed to get out of Heilu with the help of Borans KPRs who bravely fought off and kept Gabra militia in check. That afternoon and though the following two days fierce battle raged as the few Boran KPRs fought with Gabra militia that viciously attacked Heilu village, Mansile and Oda.

As this battle went on; all families fled from Heilu to Ethiopia. Strangely the police officers in the nearby post which is right at the very edge of Heilu village did not take any step to support the poorly armed Boran KPRs who were defending the village. Even the DC who was nearly killed in Heilu by Gabra militia just went to his residence in Moyale town and kept quiet!! By the fourth day of the fight Boran KPRs ran out of ammunitions and left the village to be razed down as police officers watched. The excuse these officers gave for not defending the village was that they had no instructions to do so! It is such inaction on the part of security officers that led ordinary people to conclude that both the police and the DC were part supportive of what Gabra militias are doing to Borana community.

While fighting in Heilu and other areas was going on the army battalion based in Moyale was deployed to Kenya-Ethiopia boarder to prevent Boran militia from crossing over to support their kinsmen who were under attack. But at the same time Ethiopia Gabra militia from region five were pouring into Kenya to fight with Borana KPRs on all fronts. On 5th of January, when Borana KPR from Heilu, Butiye and Oda ran out of ammunition and were about to be vanquished, Ethiopian Borana militia managed to get through the Kenya army cordon to offer support. Soon after their arrival Gabra militia were driven from all Borana villages and faced certain defeat. That was the time Kenya army swung into actions and attacked Borana fighters with artillery fire, mortars and heavy machine guns. Sensing that Kenya security forces were openly siding with the Gabra fighters Borans militia opted to withdraw and retreated back to Ethiopia after losing some of their fighters to Kenya military fire.

It was this incident that sparked stormy riot in Moyale town as Borana youths stormed the DC’s office accusing the government of openly siding with their enemies and attacking them. There is sufficient documentation that details what actually happened during this period.

For the next five months Borana families who were ejected from their villages remained in Ethiopia until some kind of cease fire arrangement was worked out to enable them return to their shattered homes in June. Beyond this there was no any other action taken against the planners and executors of this evil scheme that resulted in heavy loss of lives and massive destruction of property. Even more strangely Kenya government security agents who deliberately failed to protect the innocent Kenyans have gone unchallenged and no legal action was taken against them to date.

4.7 2013 General Election:

After Boran community who fled from their villages to Ethiopia came back following ‘a cease fire’ arrangement enforced by Kenya army in Moyale attention soon shifted to the upcoming general election to be held the following year in march. Between august 2012 and March 2013 all attention was directed to electioneering process.

Strange as it may sound Borana community leaders appeared to forget about the threats of genocide facing them and spent all their resources and emotional energy in competitive politicking among themselves. While they are engrossed in their internal political strife the members of REGGABU were systematically consolidating their joint strategy to win the upcoming election. Come the election date Boran community were divided between their competitive candidates. They lost heavily to REGGABU alliance and failed to capture any of the elective seats in the county. Their only consolation was the two parliamentary seats they won in Saku and Moyale constituencies. To add insult to the injury Borans were excluded from all the key appointments in the new county government. This too is another bone of contention that will most likely develop into another show down between REGGABU and Borans in the coming days.

Borans were deeply frustrated and bitter with each other over their loss in general election. Just before they had the chance to take stock of their lot, a long kept plan of taking over their lands both in Ethiopia and Kenya was set in motion. Now even more motivated by their election win. Gabra and Burji alliance with support from Garre administrators in region five of Ethiopia moves swiftly to implement the operational plan of their strategy. The following are some highlights of events that took place in Moyale between April and 10th of December this year.

  • Unprecedented massive exodus of Gabra families along with their animals and armed militias came from region five of Ethiopia and occupied the areas stretching from Funan Nyata all the way to Antuta pasture lands on Kenyan side. Reaction from Boran leaders was fast and furious. They demanded from the office of the deputy county commissioner why the government was allowing the takeover of their land by immigrants from Ethiopia. This incident marked the beginning of hostilities and armed engagement between Boran and Gabra/Burji alliance in the earnest
  • Sporadic attacks against isolated villages and armed ambush targeting vehicles travelling on Marsabit-Moyale road become common occurrence. Cases of individuals being kidnapped and killed was also on the rise. Tirades of accusations and counter accusations were frequently traded between antagonists’ leaders of different communities.
  • Harassment and intimidation of Boran leaders including the arrest of Qate chief led to mass demonstration in Moyale town. Human right activists who sought to know why police were siding with one community against another was shot dead right in front of their office. See the quote from local media.

Monday August 2013 The star: By Albert Nyakundi.

The independent medico-legal unit, IMLU and the national coalition of human rights defenders-Kenya (NCHRD-K) have commenced a postmortem examination among other inquiries on behalf of the family of the slain human rights activists Hassan Ali Guyo.

The Moyale based activists was allegedly shot dead by an army officer in Moyale town last week. He was shot during a protest by locals against the arrest of area Chief Jillo Boru on directives from Moyale county deputy commissioner.

Boru’s boss had accused him of involvement in an attack a week before the protest. The 39 year old activist was working with a non- governmental organization, Strategies for Northern Development as programs director.

  • On 26th of August and all out war against Boran in Heilu, Odda, Antuta and other areas was launched. Fighting raged for the next three days until Boran KPRs ran out of ammunitions and retreated from Heilu village. Once again both police and the army did not intervened as long as Gabra/Burji militia prevailed.
  • While the fight was going on in Kenya the Ethiopian Boran militias who wanted to cross over and help their kinsmen were prevented from doing so by the administrator of region four. In the mean while Gabra militia from region five were not only allowed free movement to come to Kenya but also to bring with them heavy military standard fire arms which under normal circumstances would only be used by the military and not civilian militias. Sensing the gross injustice and partiality of both Kenyan and Ethiopian government officials. Boran militias from region four forced their way to Moyale and engaged Gabra/Burji alliance in fierce battle that engulfed the entire area including Moyale town. Marsabit county governor was in Moyale town at that particular occasion. Due to the intensity of the on-going fight he was unable to leave his hotel room. A contingent of army officers took him to safety.
  • As it happened in all the previous battles, as soon as Gabra/Burji militias were overcome, Kenya army came to their rescue and began shelling Boran fighters with mortars and rocket propelled grenades. Not wanting to engage Kenya army in battle, Ethiopian Boran militia retreated back across the border. Gabra/Burji militias re-occupied all the villages from where they were driven and commenced destruction of all Borans houses and properties.
  • Between September and end of November, the communities that were forced out of their homes remained in Ethiopia while other stayed with relatives in Sessi area. During this period a new deputy county commissioner was posted to Moyale. By all accounts, this administrator, Mr. Kamunyan Chedotun was fair-minded and soughs to resolve the problem in Moyale through peaceful means. It soon became very clear he was not making any progress. Close observers opine that the deputy commissioner’s office and that of the police OCPD appear to be on a different trajectory on the way they viewed and handled the unfolding conflicts. This administrator was greatly frustrated since the police commandant was not keen to follow his directives. Talk of a divided government on the ground begun.
  • Gabra/Burji alliance still had unfinished business. Borans settlements were still in Oda, Butiye, Sessi, Somare, Antuta and all other remaining areas of Sololo. According to their plan, all these areas have to be cleared. So once more a massive eradication campaign was set in motion. This long awaited battle begun on 3rd of December.
  • From 3rd of December and for the next four days the entire Moyale town was a battle zone as gun fire raged on. Both the army and the police kept to their camps and remotely monitored the situation. On Saturday 7th December it was clear that Gabra/Burji alliance were on the verge of defeat as they fled from all their strong-holds. This time round hundred of Borans youth even as those who had no fire arms were involved in what they called ‘the final battle for their land’. As expected the Kenya army was right there to defend the GABU alliance both with fighter helicopters and the infantry. Helicopter gunship was extensively was used in an attempt to decimate Boran fighters. Faced with massive military force on the ground and from the air, Boran fighters retreated to the safety of the hilly areas adjacent to Ethiopian boarder.
  • This last battle brought to light certain issues that were not witnessed before. As Boran fighters fled from the helicopter gunfire they noticed that GABU militias have quickly changed into full military uniforms and were freely mingling with Kenya army infantry. As Boran fled out Sessi and Butiye GABU militia started burning down houses of all prominent Boran personalities in Butiye in the very presence of the Kenya army! If there was any doubt about government partiality in this war this incident convinced even non-Boran residents in Moyale that Borans were not just fought by GABU alone but also but also by Kenya army and the government of region five of Ethiopia as well.
  • On 7th December Saturday afternoon after the Kenya army openly sided with GABU militia to attack Borans there was an outcry from all Boran leaders in all major towns including Nairobi. Top Kenyan government leaders were contacted over the matter. During media interview, the Moyale and Saku MP gave graphic details of what was going on in Moyale and demanded a government statement on the matter.
  • It appears that the incident of Saturday battle in Moyale had brought to light some aspects of the conflicts that most Kenyans were unaware of. The common notion was that Moyale conflict was the usual inter-tribal skirmishes over land, pasture and water sources. The use of military grade weaponry used by GABU militia and the army uniform they donned must have alarmed top government officials in Nairobi. Clearly the Kenya army and by extension the government found itself in very embarrassing situation. Perhaps as an attempt to redeem its image the army conducted a different kind of exercise the following day which was 8th December. From as early as 6am, the army helicopter took to the air and rained fire on the GABU militia strong hold in Arosa area. Army infantry soon moved in to mop up the area. It is unclear how many people were killed in this sudden and unexpected military campaign but several GABU militias were captured. With the help of information extracted from the captured militias the army located and retrieved huge assortments of weaponry and new bundles of uniforms for different security units including army, GSU, regular and administration police force. How GABU intended to use all these uniforms is anyone’s guess.
  • Details on what followed after this incidence are scanty but there are indication that Kenya government top security leaders were actually shocked by the revelation of how Gabra/Burji alliance managed to manipulate the government system to a point of actually compromising the very security of the nation. With west gate incident still fresh in Kenyans’ mind mostly likely further action will be taken to get to the core of all the issues associated with the unending war in Moyale.


It appears that Garre and Gabra were operating on similar strategies and supporting each other in their implementation. Gabras were to carry out this assignment on Kenyan side while Garre took care of the same on Ethiopian side. The ultimate aim of this campaign is basically to remove Borans from all their traditional land that lies to the east of the main highway connecting to Kenya and Ethiopia. The rationale for Burji inclusion in this alliance is still unclear since they are not known to be keen on land acquisition venture. Most likely they just threw their financial weight behind GABU alliance so as to secure their future business interest in the region. They appear convinced that it is just a matter of time before Borans got wiped out from Moyale and its environs both in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Some of the possible reasons for Garre/Gabras determination to annex Borans land are as given here under:

5.1 Garri objectives in war campaign

  • Garri wanted to have exclusive access and use of all resources in the southern part of region five to themselves. Borans are the only claimants to this part of region five.
  •  They have many investments in both Moyale of Kenya and Ethiopia and would like to see these two strategic towns included in region five which they already control
  • They wanted exclusive control and reap economic benefits that will accrue from LAPSET transportation corridor that will pass through Moyale.
  • They desire to create a safe platform from which ‘Islamization’ and Caliphatecreation agenda can be launched to influence the surroundings regions. This plan is an extension of the grand ‘Islamization’ agenda for Africa currently being worked out in different countries by sponsors of radical Islamic movements.
  • To create their most cherished dream Garre Land republic stretching from region five of Ethiopia right down to Isiolo in Kenya. (see the map in the attachment)

5.2 Gabra objects in war campaign:

On the other hand Gabra’s objectives while similar to those of Garre are also different in some respects: the following is a snap shot of their vision.

  • Sensing that they do not have long term future in either region five or four in Ethiopia, they felt urgent need to secure a region they can call their own.
  • Having lived under the shadow of Boran numerical supremacy for generations, they felt the opportunity is now available to assert themselves and boost their numerical strength in Marsabit County.
  • To ensure solid political leverage in 2017 and beyond.
  • To realize their dream of joining both the Migo and Malbe Gabra nations with no any other community in between.
  • To have exclusive access to all key water points in Odda, Walda, Rawana and the rich pastureland of Antuta, Ambalo, Shur and other such areas to themselves.
  • To control and gain all economic benefit that will accrue from LAMPSET project transportation corridor which will be passing through the territories they seek to control.



6.0 Key Actors in Moyale Conflict

The scope and the nature of the armed conflicts that engulfed Moyale since last year, was unprecedented. These conflicts were obviously not the usual fights between pastoral communities over pasture, water source or cattle rustling venture as often happens between Turkana, Samburu, and the Pokots in North Rift Valley region. As shown above, even the range of interests that key parties in the conflict pursue, are far more than the normal intertribal conflicts of the past.

Multidimensional nature of the conflict’s plan and its execution would require the input of different actors, elaborate coordination and massive financial outlay to pull it off. the identity and specific roles of the various actors would further shade some light on what actually is going on in Moyale region on both Kenya and Ethiopia side. Here come the actors:

6.1 Garre: their interests and what they seek to achieve in this conflict is outlined above. Being closely linked with leadership of region five in Ethiopia, they are credited with supplying the fire arms, logistical and back-up support and militia trainers to the Gabra. It is also through good will and logistical support that Gabra families were able to cross over into Kenya with all their weapons without the central government in Ethiopia raising any objection. Lastly, it most probable that they are ones who provided the link to access the service of armed mercenaries from different part of region five and beyond. Their link with Al-Shabaab in Somali and other Garre fighters from Mandera is a key factor in their quest.

6.2 Gabra: The objectives and interests they seek to realize are as given above. They provide the bulk of the fighting force war campaign on Kenyan side. They are also taken to provide training for Burji fighters and protection to Burji Manyatta. Their KPRs provide escort to Burji vehicles. It is also rumored that through some of their key members who are senior officers in Kenya security forces. They obtained assortments of uniforms and ammunitions used by various units of Kenya security forces. They have also raised substantial amount of money to finance their war campaign with significant input coming from Marsabit County governor with his associates.

6.3 Burji: They are credited with bankrolling the war campaign in all dimensions. It is also most likely that the support of Kenya government functionaries at various levels from Moyale all the way to Nairobi was secured through their long established business networks. Though on limited scale, they also provide some of their own fighters (KPRs) and hired others from Ethiopia, mostly to protect their property and to map out battle strategies.

6.4 Boran: Basically Boran key concern is the protection of their people; land other properties against attacks from Gabra, Burji and Garre. Those in Kenya mainly rely on their KPRs and other members of the community who can handle fire arms. The Boran in Ethiopia are better organized and equipped to defend themselves. They are the ones who come to rescue their kinsmen in Kenya. Their major handicap is that they lack the financial muscle and strong networks within Kenya and Ethiopia government systems to match the ones established by the Gabra/Garre alliance. Their role in both Kenya and Ethiopia is that of self-defense.

6.5 Kenya security forces: their role in this conflict is both direct and indirect. Normally it is the office of police commandant that vets and issues fire arms to KPRs of all the communities, it is common knowledge that there has been no transparency or fairness in this process. For instance, whereas KPRs are supposed to be providing security only to pastoral communities who roam around with their animals, Burji communities who are living and doing business in towns are not only given more guns and ammunition, but superior weapons like AK47 and G-3 while Boran KPRs are saddled with only a handful of old model of 303 rifles that have long been confined to archives. Even Gabra KPRs are better equipped and obviously given more ammunition than their Boran counter parts. The reason for this anomaly is any one’s guess.

In two specific conflict incidents, the police OCPD summoned Boran KPRs from Heilu and Butiye to his office for no apparent reasons. This was in January, 2012, and in December, 2013 respectively, when he knew their two villages were about to be attacked by Gabra KPRs and their militia from Ethiopia. Close observers see this action as deliberate attempt to render Heilu and Butiye village defenseless against Gabra attacks which indeed happened and resulted in loss of lives and massive damage to Borans’ properties.

The set of new uniform for various Kenya security forces, which were recovered from Burji and Gabra fighters during army operation conducted on 8th of December, clearly points to a possibility of close collaboration between some elements in the Kenya security forces and Gabra/Burji alliance.

What all these means is that to the extent that police are seen as directly supporting one community against the others as shown in these incidents. They come across as dire participants in the conflict.

Police indirect role in Moyale conflict assume different forms. These include:

a)      Failing to take action when they knew attacks were being planned against Boran community even after they have notified of what was going on.

b)      Relaying incorrect information to Government headquarter in Nairobi about the security situation in Moyale.

c)      Compromising the sovereignty of the country by knowingly allowing armed militia to come to Kenya with their animals and families forcefully displace Kenyan citizens from their land.

d)     Refused to protect the properties of Boran communities while providing adequate protection to those of Gabra and Burji. All Boran homes numbering about 250 in Manyatta Burji were destroyed, while police guarded Burji trucks day and night in the same Manyatta! In Heilu, all Boran homes were looted and destroyed as police, whose post was right at the edge of the village, watched without making any attempt to stop the destruction. Yet when some Boran youths looted and burnt Burji Lorries, heavy contingent of security personnel was mobilized to recover the looted goods and Boran Member of parliament and county rep charged with inciting the youths.

e)      Refused to enforce the directives of the County Deputy commissioner who wanted to find a fair solution to security problem in Moyale.

f)       Human right activist who came to their office to interview the commandant was shot right in front of their office.

g)      Exposed Kenya government to ridicule and shame as innocent Kenyans languished as refugees in Ethiopia while police continued pretend all is fine in Moyale Kenya.

6.6 Alleged faceless-participants:  Thought this could not be verified, but there is common rumor that the local people believe to be true that there are hidden players involved in the Moyale conflict in one way or another:

a)      Al-shabaab: It is believed that Garre leadership in region Five of Ethiopia is actually fronting and providing safe haven for Al-shabaab and other forces committed to Islamization of Horn of Africa and establishment of Islamic caliphate. The activities of radical Muslims in Ethiopia, North eastern Kenya, Mombasa and Tanzania are all linked to this Islamic agenda. While Garre have their own agenda, but by associating with this forces, they now have access to massive source of weapons, financial aid and technical support in war in their campaign.

b)      Ethiopian government soldiers (Tigreans) at the height of OLF movements in the 90s, it was common knowledge that Ethiopia security forces would sneak into the vast low lands south of Moyale Kenya to supposedly, hunt down OLF elements. But this secret expedition ceased when OLF movement broke up and most of the fighters voluntarily surrendered to Ethiopian government and were integrated into the society. Rumor has is that Gabra and Garre tricked Ethiopian soldiers, disguised as Gabra militia, to come to Moyale so as to supposedly fight the remnants of OLF fighters.

c)      OLF fighters.   It is rumored that though their number is negligible, there are few former OLF elements who offer tactical advice to Boran militia. While such possibilities cannot be ruled but it could not be verified independently.

d)      Business speculators: there is a feeling that there could be some powerful business tycoons out there, perhaps even beyond the boarder of Kenya Ethiopia, who are eyeing the vast business opportunities that would open up around Moyale once LAPSET transport corridor gets there. These speculators apparently require huge tracts of land on which to build all manner of business facilities in partnership with local leaders and prominent personnel among Moyale business communities. They are said to have provided some funds to facilitate the current sweeping process (read Boran evacuation). This too is unsubstantiated but the rumor exists

7.0 Impact of current conflict in Moyale communities:

The details of the impact that the recent conflicts had on Moyale community is aptly captured in the assessment report compiled by a team from National Drought Management Authority, Kenya Red Cross Society. Ministry of Health, World Vision Kenya and Concern Worldwide which was conducted in September this year after the major round of conflicts in August 2013.

To fully appreciate the impact of the on-going conflict, it is important to remember that out of an estimated 85,000 people living in Moyale constituency, majority of the household live below the absolute poverty line. Cases of malnutrition, water shortage, poor sanitation and literacy level is very low. Their situation is further aggravated by erratic weather condition which directly affects their source of livelihood as agro-pastoral and pastoral communities. It is only small percentage of the population that is involved in business activities in towns and other settlement centers. Below are some of the highlights of harm done to Moyale communities by the on-going conflicts.

Hundreds of lives lost:

It is difficult to come up with exact number of people who lost their lives since the fights begun for a number of reasons. To start with, most people, both combatants and ordinary civilians are killed in the bush. It is not practical to do body count under prevailing circumstances of insecurity. Secondly, all parties in conflicts are unwilling to disclose the exact extent of the casualties they suffered. Lastly, for some reasons, police would always underreport the number of people killed, even with regard to the actual bodies they have collected with the help of the Red Cross staff. Since this war began, hundreds have died and many more continue to die from bullet-wounds and related health complications.

Houses Damaged, Looted and Burnt:

The conflict virtually affected all areas of central and Gobo division. The following villages in Golbo suffered the most: (Kate, Funan nyata Odda, Mansile, Kinisa, Halobula, Kalaliwe, Iladu, Hadhesa, Gimbe) and central division (Lami, Heilu, Arosa, Goromuda and Manyatta) were affected. Approximately a total of 6,500 households displaced. At the time of this assessment the number of households already burnt stood at 107 while those looted and damaged are estimated to be at 186. This number has since significantly increased following the renewed fights in the first week of December.

Learning Institutions Affected:

The following learning institutions were ether damaged, looted and closed down: Butiye primary school (1 classroom was completely destroyed). Moyale girls’ secondary school (Libraries, classrooms, computer Lab were broken into and learning materials destroyed/looted). St. Mary’s primary school (Gate and Fence destroyed). Iladu and Mansile primary school’s (building broken into, learning materials destroyed and school meals programme food stolen) and Sessi academy, a private school was burnt.

Displacement: 93% of people interviewed by the assessment team have been displaced since the conflict started. Some of these people are being hosted by their relatives across the border in safer areas with the constituency. Those who have the means have already moved to other parts of Kenya or Ethiopia. Those who have no families that could take them in are sheltering in public facilities in near police stations or across border. Most of these facilities are overcrowded and lack sanitary facilities.

Food security situation: food security situation is particularly critical. Of those interviewed, 100% stated that they have no steady source of food supply. They mostly rely on the good will of those hosting them. While the host host-families are on the verge of exhausting their food reserves, even those with some money find difficult find sufficient food to buy and whatever little that is available is too expensive. Some families even struggle to basic house hold items like cooking utensils. Market supply system has also been disrupted as well. As survival strategies some of IDPs have devised new livelihood activities such as borrowing money, changes in diet, reduction in the size and number of meals and other negative coping strategy like commercialization of sex which is likely to increase prevalence of HIV/AID.

Damaged relationship: The rest of the details of the harm done to Moyale residents are contained in the assessment report, but it need to be understood that the nature and the scope of the on-going conflict has so far had two serious consequences which would be extremely difficult to address. One is that the community, Boran in particular, would find it difficult to trust Kenyan Government institution of administration and security forces, especially police force. Secondly, in the light of the repeated genocide attempts, it would be very difficult for the warring communities to live together again coming days.

8.0 Why Past Attempts at Conflicts Resolution in Moyale failed. 

The question that keeps emerging whenever the subject of Moyale conflict comes up in discussion, is why no solution to this problem is forth coming. There is obviously no easy answer to this question, but the views of most observes of Moyale situations seem to suggest the flowing scenario as contributing to the difficulties of finding a lasting solution to the on-going problem.

8.1 Limitation of old elders system and erosion of traditional values and relational ties: 

As with all other traditional communities, the old order of communal relationship is fast deteriorating. This is partly as direct consequences of modernizing forces and diffusion of ethnic identities in urban settings. Pastoral groups in particular have undergone continues changes in their lifestyle. Territorial boundaries as sedentary settlements encroach on their pasture lands.

Before the advent of modern government systems, community elders have, for generations, successfully resolved conflicts arising within and between different communities. But now the old traditional authority structures have been mostly broken. The old communal ties based on mutual respect, sanctity of life and commitment to interdependence relationship has been largely replaced by a culture of materialism, selfish individualism and opportunistic tendencies.

Those who are wealthy and powerful are the ones calling shots in the community and poor people often put themselves at their back call. The entrenched prevalence of poverty and joblessness has driven young people into all manner of compromises. Traitors and turncoats are being paid to spy on their communities and expose their vulnerabilities to rival groups.

Young people no longer pay attention to the advice of elders, which if heeded, could have prevented the kind of conflict holding Moyale community in its grip today. Both Burji and Gabra youths are said to have ignored the counsel of their elders against engaging in unwarranted war with their Boran neighbors. This change in traditional leadership system serves to explain why the most frequently mentioned mastermind of the ongoing conflicts are fairly young and wealthy business persons. Impatient youths who have lost confidence in the authority of the state functionaries, know too well that their elders could not provide alternative forum for justice. They therefore opt to take the law into their hands when provoked.

8.2 Commercialization of elective position of leadership:

In the past, responsibilities of leadership were normally bestowed on individuals who consistently exhibit integrity, commitment to community welfare and ability to provide leadership competently. The currently practice of competitive politics has simply reduced leadership opportunity to ‘marketable commodity’ that require massive financial muscle to attain. Once elected, such leaders would become the ‘captives’ of those who propped them up either financially or through rallying sufficient vote numbers behind them. In an attempt to recoup the funds they spent on campaigns, such leaders would often stoop low to engage in shady deals which are not necessarily in the interest of the larger community.

It is precisely this perception that the general public has of the politicians that their complaints on behalf of their community are often taken with a ‘pinch of salt’ and not followed up seriously. Why else would Kenyan public watching the MPs from Moyale and Saku constituency on local television media as they detained the account of what is happening in Moyale not take them seriously and come out to put pressure on the government to act? Of course not all elected are dishonest, but it would be unrealistic to expect individuals elected on ‘competitive politics’ platform to consistently serve all communities in their constituency with fairness, transparency and singular resolve.

8.3 Corruption and lethargy within the government system of administration.

Like all other arid and semi-arid parts of Kenya, in Marsabit County the state though technically present, but has proved ineffective to prevent, mitigate of resolve conflicts. One can appreciate the challenges of poor infrastructure and collapsed road network that hampers government officers from rapidly accessing trouble spots, but the kind of inaction witnessed in Moyale conflicts is likely to be seen as intentional rather objective weakness. The long catalogue given earlier of police’s role in the said conflict cannot just be explained away on logistical grounds.

It is therefore a fair assessment to conclude that one of the reasons why solution to Moyale conflict is still not in sight is because key government functionaries are fueling it. In any mediation effort the role of the state is critical, and when it fails, any chance enacting peaceful mediation is lost. This is especially so if the state functionaries are perceived to favoring one party against the other.

There is a feeling that one possible reason why state functionaries posted to marginal pastoral parts of Kenya can continue exploiting the conflict between tribal groups is because those in the top echelons of country’s leadership do not consider these areas politically significant. In a system where the numbers and material resources translate to political significance and therefore warrant attention, the pastoral communities in marginal areas like Turkana, Tana River, and Moyale and others will have to explore other avenues through which to find support in their predicament. The intensity of government’s response to the recent Westgate incident clearly shows that those who ‘matter most’ are worth its time and attention!

The following statement from international Center for Policy and Conflict (ICP) has this to say:

‘… the on-going violence and security crisis in Moyale and neighboring counties is a significant test for Kenya government. The violence has so far claimed more than 10 lives and displaced many others. The organization is now calling on Kenya authority to firmly tackle the underlying causes leading to repeated outbreaks of deadly violence in Moyale and neighboring areas.

In a press statement signed by Ndungu Wanaina, the NGO said the government of Kenya has not failed to protect vulnerable groups, but has created a dangerous culture of impunity that fuels endemic human rights violations.

“All concerned should redouble their efforts to put an immediate end to the cycle of violence, which is putting thousands of lives at risk and threatening the social stability of the whole area”, read the press statement.

If further suggested that ethnic hatred must not be allowed to keep fomenting Kenya, “We urged the government of Kenya to take all the legal appropriate measures to immediately stop the ethnic violence, to protect the victims, and to avoid the repetition of such killings in the future”. It asserted.

ICPC pointed out that in the absence of a principled, determined and robust response from the government of Kenya, manifested in strong enforcement of law, communities will feel that they can vent their frustrations and inter-communal hostilities with impunity.

Equally, those who incite such violence will feel empowered to continue doing so, in the knowledge that they will face no consequences from the state. The security forces also must act within the law and they must be even handed in their treatment when responding to outbreak of violence in the affected area the statement reads  ICPC  also in its statement called on the Governance to bring the full force of the law to bear against those responsible for inciting violence.

8.4 focus on the immediate cessation of hostility and not on systematic underlying issues

The recent deployment of the military force to Moyale was seen as quick solution to protracted conflicts that is spanning a period of more four years. This quick fix approach only serves to not only postpone the problem, but escalate it as well. State intervention where the military uses helicopter gunship against one party in the conflict, would not only change the balance of power between the warring communities, but would be recipe for genocide in the making on the same scale of what was witnessed in Rwanda. Kenya government authority need to learn from the military campaign among the Turkana, Pokots and Karamoja in the 1980s which rather than solving the problem. Only serve to make it worse.

Another quick-fix approach that has been used in the past was to summon all political leaders from the area of conflict to Nairobi and pressurize them to make peace and get their people to go back to their village and live together. This is exactly what the government did when all Marsabit county politicians and other leaders were summoned by the cabinet secretary in charge of internal security. It is true political leaders have considerable influence on the communities they represent, but it would be very unrealistic to treat a complex conflict situation like that of Moyale as if it is a football contest between two teams under direct control of their respective captains!

There have been talks of disarming all communities around Moyale. This approach, though feasible has a number of loopholes when applied to areas like in Moyale. In the first place, there is no guarantee that the security force entrusted with such an exercise would be impartial and treat all communities alike. In the light of all the unfairness noted in the past, this is unlikely to happen. Disarming poor communities along with those who have resource to re-arm themselves would just shift the balance of power and annihilation of the weaker community. Secondly, proximity of Moyale to the porous border of Ethiopia and Somalia would more still mean that arms flow into the area would continue as usual. It would more appropriate to first of all provide adequate security to all communities and convincingly demonstrate that they do not need fire arms at all.

8.5 Silence of religious leaders:

With traditional elders mostly silenced, and political leaders and governance administrators not considered credible, where would communities turn to for arbitration of this unending conflict?  The voice of the civil society on Moyale conflict is barely audible. Even the media has given only token attention once in a while. Could it because these poor communities cannot afford to pay for media coverage? With all these possible avenues through which solution to the conflict can be sought, found either ineffective or compromised, one would wonder whether religious institution would be of help

The voice of religious leaders (both Christian and Muslim) is conspicuously absent. It would be of   interest to explore how such leaders can be mobilize to save the situation.

8.6 International Dimensional of Conflict:

One other reason why this conflict is difficult to resolve is its international dimension. It is simplistic to just send an army to deal with militias coming from the neighboring country. This clearly is not a case where outsiders are crossing into the country to harass Kenyans who are leaving together peacefully. The details given in this paper already makes this point clear. A comprehensive approach that has multiple dimensions would be needed to address the complex challenge of Moyale conflicts. Some suggestions are given in the section below for consideration.

9.0 Suggestions for Resolving Conflict foster Reconciliation & Healing:

What happened in Moyale is in many respects unprecedented. The problem is complex in the real sense of the word. No simple quick fix solution that have been tried in past has any chance of succeeding to bring about sustainable resolution to the conflict and foster reconciliation among all sectors of the community. Although Government has constitutional responsibility to address the problem in Moyale, but given the complexities involved in Moyale conflict, it would very unrealistic to expect the govern shoulder this enormous responsibility alone. Several key actors like humanitarian agencies, religious leaders, civil societies, political leaders and elders, and all government institutions would have to work together to tackle the multidimensional crisis in Moyale.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that something akin to micro ‘marshal plan’ would most appropriately match the crisis in Moyale. Such a plan would not require substantial funding outlay, but more importantly a competent coordination body would be required to do a comprehensive analysis of the situation on the ground and thereafter, map out detailed intervention plan and operational mechanism of the same.

The suggestion below are just a snap shot of what needs to be done in the three phases; that are immediate, short term and long term. In terms of time-scale, there will of necessity be a considerable overlap between the phases. The below suggested skeleton actions points have to be fleshed out and carefully sequenced so that the gains realized at one stage would create the necessary synergy and momentum for next.

9.1 Immediate intervention:

9.1.1 Set up IDP camps that are complete with all basic facilities to cater for displaced people and schooling arrangement made for their children for a period of least one year as conflict resolution measures are worked to facilitate return to their villages. These camps have to set up in strategic places that are safe for the different communities and adequate security provided.

9.1.2 Organize comprehensive programs within the camp which would include:

  • Regular and adequate food supply to different categories of IDP population.
  • School programme for children in different categories
  • Psychosocial support for those traumatized by the conflict consequences.
  • Counseling programme to foster reconciliation and healing (religious leaders key here)
  • Impartation of life skills to be used when the situation normalizes
  • Health care services, water supply, shelter and basic household facilities
  • Recreational arrangements that is educative and engaging to cope with boredom.

9.1.3 Establishment of inter-state (Kenya -Ethiopia)to investigate the nature and the extent of Ethiopia’s Region five/four leaders involvement in Moyale conflict and any other external force.

9.1.4 Identification and apprehending all the master minds of the conflicts. The fall force of the law should take its course without favor to any one party. If the legal system would allow, it would fair to attach the properties of all conflicts master mind and use to boost ‘Marshall plan’ fund pool.

9.1.5 Commencement of thorough investigation of police force and county government functionaries’ role in the conflict by an independent and credible committee and speedy appropriate action taken based on the committee’s recommendations.

9.1.6 Recovery of all the looted property. This has to be done with close collaboration of Ethiopia Government. (The ToR of inter-government investigative will have to contain this issue.

Comments: The above measures will restore community trust and confidence in the government institutions. With the exclusion of the all the master minds and financiers of the conflict it would be easier to embark of the psychosocial healing process that will pave ways for the next phase.

9.2 Short terms measures:

9.2.1. Set up truth, justice and reconciliation committee.

It should be noted that not all members of Gabra, Burji or Boran communities are interested this warfare. However, these peace-loving moderate members of all these communities lack safe avenue through which to express their sentiments for fear of recrimination from others. Such a committee should compromise of individuals of integrity who are not member of the communities in conflict.

9.2.2 Community healing and reconciliation programme:

While some psychosocial healing may have initiated in individual IDP camps, this process should lead to an intercommunity dialogues peace meetings, exposure tours and compensation schemes including trauma-healing sessions: the outcome of Truth, Justice and reconciliation committee will inform this process.

9.2.3 Local advocacy initiative:

Advocacy and policy influence the way state functionaries would run the affairs of the county and that of Moyale people in particular. This is to secure the rights of all safe guard against the practice of impunity that precipitated the current conflict. Communities’ participation in advocacy policy formulation and engagement in public discourse should be strengthened.

9.2.4 Establish adequate security presence in all strategic areas.

This would entail re-vetting, retraining all KPRs and equipping them adequately to better serve their community. Community-based systems of remunerating the KPRs have to be worked out to secure their undivided attention to the communities’ security welfare. Improvement of transportation and communication infrastructure to all parts of Moyale constituency would be in order.

9.2.5 Develop a comprehensive reconciliation & reconstruction Marshall plan 

There is need to solicit support for its implementation. This pan would have several aspects some of which are given below:

  • Reconstruction of all damaged homes, schools and all other facilities.
  • Restoration of stolen properties and animals to rightful owners.
  • Restoration of lost business and other income generating ventures.
  • Special support program to families that have become destitute
  • Reactivation of abandoned farm lands and water source to boost security
  •  Measures mainstream Moyale communities particularly the poor into the county development process
  • Other restorative measures deemed appropriate and those detailed in assessment report(see attachment)

9.3 Long term measures: (implementation of marshal plan)

9.3.1 shelter reconstruction program

Rehabilitation of destroyed homes, social amenities and resettlement of displaced families

9.3.2 Livelihood improvement program

This entails strengthening or starting alternative livelihoods (income generating activities, fishing, crop farming and restocking) development of water sources as the most effective ways rehabilitating conflict victims and resolving conflict.

9.3.3 Educating and organizing community on how to benefit from LAPSET project

9.3.4 Civic education on systems of devolved government.

9.3.6 Enact land adjudication process and legalize ownership of communal land.

9.3.7. Constitute peace committee and support with adequately resourced secretariat that has strong conflict resolution mechanism in the region

10 Concluding Remarks:

The conflict in Moyale is not over. It is likely to be so any time soon. The present lull in the fight is enforced by military presence and helicopter patrol. No one should presume this military intervention to be solution to the problem that ignited this conflict.

It is hope that by now it is clear to both Kenya and Ethiopian Government that there are three layers of schemes/plan behind the present conflict. The first scheme is the Gabra/Burji drive to displace Boran which given momentum by the outcome of the recent general election outcome. However, behind this scheme there is large, long-term Garre scheme to create what they call Garre Land Republic which was alluded to by the inspector general of police as quoted in the local media. Here is part of what h said about the Garre scheme.

‘…Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo said he had directed the grilling of the leaders from the region to the bottom of the problem there. It is hoped that the grilling of the leaders who will including Governor Ukur Yattani will help solve the problem that has seen hundreds of locals who are fighting following the outcomes of the last general elections. “The government will not sit and watch unnecessary inter-clan killings which are politically instigated. I therefore direct the Director of Criminal Investigation to cause statements be recorded from all the political leaders from Marsabit County both those who won various seats and even those who vied for political seats and didn’t win. Kimaiyo said they also investigating a website known as Garr online for allegedly in sighting the skirmishes. The website calls for the secession of parts of North Eastern Kenya. Accord to map, the new region will be called Garre land Republic which stretches from Isiolo–Moyale, Wajir and Mandera to part of Ethiopia. The group has so far been blamed for rising tension and fighting between major ethnic groups that have left more than 100 people dead in the past year. Read more at

The map that the Police inspector general is referring to and related information obtained from Garre web sites are in the attached to this paper. Garre leaders are clearly using both Burji to further their long term agenda. In their calculation of Garre land Republic establishment. Exclusively Gabra zone does not feature at all.

The third scheme, which is more hidden and potentially more dangerous, is the Islamization campaign seeking the establishment of Islamic Caliphate in the horn of Africa. It appears that Garre leaders in region five Ethiopia and elsewhere are playing along and tapping into this emerging Islamization agenda and immensely benefitting from its massive funding and arms supply.

Even the most casual observer of the changing social profile of Muslim communities in the Northern and North Eastern Kenya, would notice that Garre community have embraced Wahhabi version of Islam more than any other communities as evidenced in the veiling of all their women. This is a recent phenomenon. One may as well wonder where their sudden wealth which they use to establish all sorts of business outlets ranging from electronic, clothing, cosmetics, jewelry and real estate acquisition coming from. Where would ordinary Kenyans get such amount of money to put up huge story buildings within a short time without obtaining loans from banks? Further, one has ask where the endless supplies of fire-arms that they sell to whoever cares to buy, come from?

Both Kenya and Ethiopia Government has to wake up to development before radical Islamic agenda for Kenya and Ethiopia gets out of hand. A keen observer of the recent events in Ethiopia, North Eastern Kenya, Mombasa MRC (where the radical Muslim youth are taking over mosque after ousting moderate Imam), the rising tension between Muslims and Christians in Tanzania, Central African Republic(CAR) would notice striking similarities in patterns of this events. By connecting all these dots, there is a better chance of putting the unending conflict in Moyale in a broader context and move on from there

Source: Ardaa Jilaa

Free Bekele Gerba + over 40,000 Political Prisoners in Ethiopia


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