CENTRE FOR COMMUNITY DIALOGUE AND DEVELOPMENT
OWIRO LUO COMMUNITY FORUM
On 16th April 2013
This program is supported by USAID and the people of Kenya. This report was compiled by the Centre for Community Dialogue &Development (CCDD).
The forum started at 12:30 noon, the introductory session was presided over by Mr. James Abwas who is a peace coordinator for CCDD at Owiro. The forum started with prayer from the church catechist, Johannes Owiti, after which David Busienei took over to introduce the facilitators for the day. He thanked the participants for turning up in good numbers and reminded them of a previous forum; in Jan 22nd 2013 which they had discussed peace matters and gave them an outline of their progress since then. He then welcomed Rev. Rirei, one of the facilitators, who was to introduce the speaker for the day, David Cooke a lawyer, from England and has been in Kenya undertaking peace campaigns especially in Uasin Gishu County.
David Cooke taking the participants through the session
The participants were enthusiastic to listen to Mr. Cooke who assured them that God wants them to champion for peace and unity in the area. “We are here because we want peace in our society”, He said to them. There’s need for dialogue so that it becomes easier to deliberate on activities concerning peace.” It is important to speak truly from our hearts if we want to get peace’’. He therefore gave a chance to every participant to raise those issues that have caused conflict between them and their neighbors’, and these were the reasons they gave:
“There’s nothing else we need other than peace” a member said.” I would like my son to marry from the Kalenjin community”, if we have peace, love and unity with our Kalenjin brothers and sisters this is possible and it is what we desperately need now than ever. Our daughters are even married to the Kalenjins; therefore we are a community and we should advocate for peace for the sake of our children”.” Little conflicts have caused havoc in this area, we believe it can be solved, a member says.
- Celestine, a participant in the forum also added that they are not healthy because they lack sufficient food like milk which is produced by the Kalenjins who are their neighbors and they are not in good terms sometimes. “We don’t share anymore like neighbors need to do”.
Celestine sharing her views concerning conflicts
- Another member also raised a point that they are not comfortable “Our goats get stolen, he added that even young children from our neighboring community have been incited to chase us away; ‘enda Nyanza’ that is ‘go to Nyanza’ is what they tell us. ‘’ but we believe in God, we didn’t steal this land; we bought it with our own monies.
- Adoda, another participant said that she is suffering. “I’ve to struggle to get a glass of milk, because with my little piece of land I cannot graze my cattle, but my Kalenjin neighbors have the audacity to graze their cattle on my piece of land. I’m a widow, anytime there are squabbles there is fear and tension because we have nowhere else to go. We ask God to give us peace and the right to our land. How will our children survive here when we are long gone and dead? Let us seek peace.”
- Stephen, a resident here for a long time also said that lack of peace in Owiro is no secret. “We are like orphans here, we have no rights, we are belittled and if any conflict occurs, it is usually said that it is us, the Luo-Community who cause it and we don’t believe in that. Danger is lying ahead of us, our neighbors’ graze their animals on our land and we can’t even question them. Owiro has become like an island, it has been isolated. Whenever conflict arises elsewhere, we are affected. We build temporary houses because we live here temporarily. There is no peace during every election period. Our cane and property are destroyed.”
- “We have never provoked our Kalenjin brothers and sisters, this meeting should be taken to them because they are the ones who should stay with us peacefully. Women said earlier that they suffer with their children, and that’s no lie. Our neighbouring Kalenjins need to be told the truth because they don’t like to listen to that truth”.
David Cooke who was the speaker for the day got concerned with the issues that were being raised and he therefore posed a question to them to find out if they had never provoked the other community too. The participants in the forum answered they’ the Kalenjin neighbors’ are the ones who practice cattle rustling and therefore they are the ones who provoke the Luo-Community. Cooke further probed on this issue and James Abwas , the CCDD peace coordinator in Owiro admitted that they may not miss a provoker within themselves “ but they are not in this meeting”, he said.
David Cooke giving his remarks
- Another participant said that they had peaceful elections because the security personnel within the area were impartial and alert. But he gave an incident that occurred two weeks ago, that somebody grazed his livestock on his sugarcane plantation and upon reporting it to the authorities’, the matter was acted upon urgently and impartially. The background of the offender did not matter but justice took place at the end of the day. He thanked the security officers for a job well done.
- “All of us know that tribalism is more rampant here. This can be explained by the fact that, many of our youth are jobless. Only two people from our community have been employed in our farms, the rest are Kalenjins. There is no fairness here”, a participant said.
- A participant in the forum who is a mother said that they had stayed with their neighbors for a long time. “As mothers, we do farming, and our main market is Nandi Hills which is in the midst of the Kalenjin Land, we come back at night and we arrive at our houses safely and I thank our neighbors’ for that. They could be attacking us now and then if they wanted to. We are thankful to God, here we wash our clothes hang them outside for an overnight stay and they are safe. Violence we go through here can be solved.
- An administration police officer who was present in the forum also added that they are glad that at least they can see light at the end of the tunnel. NGO’s like the CCDD have chipped in to promote peace. He admitted that in their offices the Kalenjins and the luo’s have been equally represented and therefore the problems of conflicts and resolving these conflicts lies squarely on the ‘wananchi ‘. He advised the NGO’s to continue championing for peace in the area and requested that the communities also require training on matters of peace so as to create awareness that conflicts are not solutions to the problems they are facing but skills and abilities that bring development can add to bringing effective and long lasting peace in the area.
- Johannes Owiti, the church’s catechist added that; “amongst us here other than God, who else can claim the land we are in? This is God’s creation. The government compensated us in the year 1992 after we encountered destruction of our property by Kalenjins and we moved on and times have gone by. In the year 2008, we had post election skirmishes the Kikuyu’s were compensated while the Luos were not. Our children go to poor schools; our lives have not been stabilized. I love my Kalenjin neighbors’, I am a catechist, I preside over some of their functions like burials, who then is the good one amongst us? We kindly request CCDD to look into the matter and help us resolve these issues so that we live in peace.
Mr. Johannes Awiti conversing with Mr. James Abwas before giving his remark
While responding to these issues David Cooke said that we are all human beings, the police officers have been trained to be above tribalism, the same applies to the catechists, ‘’but the church has also failed because we do not live according to the way Christ wants us to, Jesus advocated for oneness then let us emulate Him. Our main problem here is land and tribalism. We belong to one tribe of Christ and we need to realize this and learn to live together. While we fight for resources we only divide ourselves, there is need to preach and champion peace.
- Rugged terrain of the area thus it becomes impassable without efficient means of transport.
- Language barrier; some of the members of the forum were older people from the luo community, thus it made it difficult for them to understand English, even through a translator.
- Lower turnout of women; most men attended the forum than the women, yet women suffer from these conflicts too.
- Patrick Omira, a participant in the forum recommended that they need a lasting solution to the matter and look for a way forward. “Let us bring this problem to an end by having a declaration. Let the Kalenjin and Luo elders of Owiro swear that they will live in Peace. This declaration will tie us up to our promises we’ve made on peace. There is need for dialogue to ascertain where the loopholes are. All we want is development and tranquility in the area. Some situations need to be improved for instance; road and electricity, which we are positive it will lower the rates of theft around. Our youth are jobless, they engage in casual jobs to keep them going. We request that they be funded on their entrepreneurial ventures so as to change their standard of living. Some of our people have gone to school and are not employed. We also need fairness in distributing these jobs. However he reiterated that the idea of the declaration should be marketed properly.
- Administration police officer present in the forum recommended that the ‘gang’ youth from both the communities need to meet together upon the facilitation of CCDD and the community and be trained on the importance of preserving peace in the area. This is because they are considered as energetic people who have potential and they can play a vital role in improving the society instead of inciting conflicts in the area. “Skirmishes in this area have been experienced since the year 1992; this trend of conflicts was implanted to the community by our top leaders then. Therefore if dialogue is done for the youth we are positive these squabbles will end, especially conflicts on cattle rustling”.
Administrative police officer giving his remarks
- Another participant added that, in order to end grazing field conflicts there need for a lasting solution. Elders from the other ‘party’ need to be informed that that it is an offense to graze in another person’s field unless there is consent, otherwise, it is trespass and it is punishable by law. He also added that Owiro is the poorest performing location in Nandi, there is need to focus on education and development. “We need accountability in our county governance and development so as to oversee the progress of all activities in the area”.
- “From the word CCDD (Centre For Community Dialogue and Development) the words more profound here are dialogue and development. For us to get out of this conflict, development is key issue that needs to be keenly acted upon. Justice also should prevail in the land since CCDD is advocating for development, peace and justice through dialogue”, a participant suggested.
- Another participant added that there is need to encourage livestock keeping. This is because of high levels of poverty and joblessness. “It is necessary to utilize the small pieces of land by encouraging livestock keeping, poultry keeping and horticultural farming. Overstocking of livestock need to be regulated to enhance productivity and utility of land, this could also reduce the cases of cattle rustling”.
- Mr. James Abwas concluded recommendations by mentioning that they cannot live in Owiro as they would like to because of fear. “Life here is miserable, we would have migrated to other places but our parents live in this land too, we are desperate for tangible peace. Peace should happen through actions not just words. We require effective infrastructure so as to boost our farming activities. Health is deteriorating because we lack medical facilities. Our nearest health facility is in Kopere or Nandi Hills which are far. We need modern schools because our children go to far schools. The bridges around are also poorly constructed and this poses a danger to our children who go to far schools during this rainy season and also to the community at large. The only dependable school was build in the year 1971, but other pupils find it far to come all the way, at times 10km is the distance our children travel to reach school. Parents need to be supported also; in matters to do with agriculture so as to improve their living standards. We are hopeful this meeting will bring a lasting change and peace to our community”.
Mr. James Abwas giving his remarks
“We have had a good session concerning this topical issue, ‘one word is enough for a wise man’. We are hopeful that peace will once again prevail in this area. This church is blessed because it will bring Peace and tranquility here, and life will change in Owiro because we believe.”Closing remarks by David Busienei coordinator CCDD.
Mr. David Busienei closing the forum
The forum was closed by a word of prayer from the facilitator of the day, Mr. David Cooke.
A pictorial view of the day’s events