THE NATIONAL COHESION RESPONSE TO THE TANA RIVER INSECUIRTY AND THE RIOTS IN MOMBASA
The on-going violence and insecurity in the country has been of great concern to the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, whose overall mandate is the promotion of peaceful co-existence among all Kenyans.
The recent ethnic violence in Mandera County (between the Garreh and Degodia), Wajir/ Garissa (between Ogaden clans), Tana River/Lamu County between the Orma and Pokomo communities respectively and the violent protest in Mombasa following the death of Sheikh Aboud Rogo is a clear indication that the country is far from being cohesive.
It is unfortunate and regrettable that over 70 innocent Kenyans have lost their lives, hundreds of houses torched and thousands of families displaced despite the recently held county forums on peaceful election where the main agenda was the need for Kenyans to coexist peacefully. It is even more worrying that the violence is happening just six month to the General Election.
The Work of the Commission in response to the Mombasa Violence
Since the death of Sheikh Aboud Rogo which saw violence erupting in Mombasa town and its environs, with deaths reported and several churches torched, the team from National Cohesion and Integration Commission led by Dr. Ahmed Yassin together with the faith based organizations has been holding numerous meetings and dialogues with the youths, Muslim communities and Christians to restore calm in Mombasa.
The impact has been huge. For the first time, Muslim leaders joined their Christian brothers to worship together in churches which were burnt as a show of solidarity.
Whilst we urge the security arm of the government to carry out thorough investigation into the killing of Sheikh Rogo, the Commission is still appealing to the community and religious leaders to prevent any future conflict. Currently, the Commission has established Cohesion dialogues with various groups in Mombasa and this has seen the youths coming out to denounce the violence.
The work of NCIC in Tana River/Lamu County
The Conflict over natural resources especially access and utilization of the waters of the River Tana has been contentious for a while, leading to frequent clashes by pastoralists and farmers in the County. The NCIC has been involved in peace dialogues between pastoralist communities in the County and brokered peace between the Orma and Wardei communities. The commission in collaboration with the National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution and Tegla Loroupe Peace foundation mobilized over 60 professionals from Tana River to travel to the affected areas to preach peace last weekend.
When the violence broke out, NCIC Chairman, Dr. Mzalendo Kibunjia and several Commissioners, Security Officers and local leaders held dialogues with the warring communities which led to the identification of the perpetrators who are now before the court. The Commission has also involved Cohesion and Integration Goodwill Ambassadors who are now working with the elders, women, youth, key stakeholders and holding door to door campaigns for lasting peace.
The NCIC has a team in Tana River County and other areas affected by the violence to facilitate inter-communal peace dialogue in collaboration with community and political leaders of the affected communities.
The Commission is working with the Coast Inter-faith Council of Kenya to ensure that peace and sanity is restored and that the conflict will not assume sectarian dimension.
It is equally disturbing to see the escalation of conflict in Mandera County that seems to have roots in political and cross-border dimensions, perpetuated by clan chauvinists. Life is losing meaning and flimsy excuses of provocation for senseless revenge attacks are gaining roots. Ethnic and clan undertones are blamed for all these happenings. It should be noted that the killings are happening despite a series of peace initiatives aimed at forestalling clashes between the Degodia and Garreh clans as campaigns ahead of the 2013 General Election gain momentum.
The NCIC is currently in the forefront in working with the communities who are now becoming peace champions. The dialogues have been very instrumental in bringing the community together to define their problem. They are currently working with the local security team in ensuring that peace is attained.
Conflict over boundaries, whether political or administrative need not be a guise to cause disharmony, insecurity, death and destruction of property. The violence pitting the clans in these two areas is also blamed on political incitement as opposed to natural resource or any other causes. For Kenyans to have a peaceful election and smooth transition, such acts must cease.
The NCIC is working with communities to ensure they give dialogue a chance and cease the hostilities and has spearheaded inter-community peace dialogue in partnership with other stakeholders.
Therefore building cohesive communities must be seen as an on-going process. Any regeneration initiative must include mechanisms which will identify the different communities within the area, any tension or conflict, current or potential and include policies to tackle these, and involve communities to contribute to the building of a cohesive Kenya.
Signed 3rd September, 2012 Nairobi, Kenya.
Mzalendo N. Kibunjia Ph.D, EBS