Cross border Peace dialogues promote peace among the East African Pastoral Communities
Karamoja - Scarcity of grazing land has for a long time been a major cause of conflicts among pastoralist communities of Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan often resulting in violent conflict and preventable deaths. This is largely attributed to the fact that their pastoralist livelihoods are hinged on livestock As a result; these communities have raided each other for decades to amass cattle wealth as a status symbol.
In 1973, two tribes from the East African Pastoral Community decided to give peace a chance, when they signed the Lokiriama Peace Accord in the Turkana country of Kenya. These two tribes, the Matheniko from Karamoja in Uganda and the Turkana of Kenya, set a precedence for peace in the entire pastoral community of the region and as the world commemorates the World Peace Day on the 21st of September, the pastoral community will be celebrating 40 years of the Lokiriama Peace accord.
In light of these peace efforts, UNDP and other partners have been supporting cross border trade dialogues between the pastoralist communities in Karamoja of Uganda and their neighbours, the Turkana of Kenya, the Toposa and other tribes of South Sudan living along the borders.
Celebrations to mark the accord’s 40th anniversary were flagged off on 18th September 2013 with an international cross border peace dialogue involving the community leaders held in Lodwar, the Administrative Town of the Turkana County in Kenya. This international Cross border peace dialogue drew leaders - cultural, religious, community, Government from the four Countries of Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.
On the 19th September the leaders joined the rest of the community in commemorating 40 years peace Acord at Lokiriama. The events were were hosted by the Governor of Turkana County, H.E Josphat Nanok Koli who reminded the different tribes gathered that they are all brothers and this region is their home, theirs to protect.
The Uganda Delegation headed by Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Minerals included the area Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), District chairpersons, LC5 councilors, Assistant commissioner of Police for Moroto and Regional Internal security officer for Moroto, CSO and UN representatives among. While the South Sudan delegation was led by by Hon. Patrick Londinga, the State Minister for Animal resources and Fisheries, accompanied by Mr. Titus Lokwachuma, the Commissioner for Kapoeta East, Eastern Equatoria State.
The celebrations whose theme was, “with devolution, human security and development is attainable in the entire Karamoja cluster,” aimed at encouraging inter-community peace building in the Karamoja region and building peace networks and linkages within the cluster to ensure lasting peace and development.
Reminding the gathering the reason for celebrating, Hon. Peter Lokeris of Uganda said, “for peace, we have crossed boarders, we have been shot at and we have lost our friends in these battles, we have been labeled as cattle rustlers, hunger stricken, backward in education, and yet here we are, celebrating peace together and none of these labels will keep us from maintaining this peace.”
He reminded the community representatives that they still had a lot of work to do in ensuring lasting peace in the region. The representatives lauded their respective governments for making it possible for the pastoralists’ communities to hold such annual meetings to discuss issues pertaining peace. Uganda was particularly commended for its disarmament programme which has contributed to the reduction of cattle rustling in the region. The other community leaders promised to adapt this best practice to ensure continued peace.
Organised under what is called the "Ateker “referring to a union of free people with mutual recognition and respect for each other , the community comprises of the Moroto, Kaabong, Kotido, Tepeth, Nakapiripirit, Pian of Uganda; Pokot and Turkana of Kenya; Toposa of South Sudan; Dasanach (Merille) and Nyanagatom of South West Ethiopia. A foundation which goes by the same name was formed to maintain the Lokiriama Peace Accord; Hon. Peter Lokeris of Uganda is its current Chair.
With the efforts of the Ateker Foundation and various partners, the cattle raiding practise is slowly dying out. A key achievement of the peace dialogues and meetings between the communities has been improved peace and security in the area as well as improved trade between the 4 countries.
Through the UNDP support, the peace dialogues have bridged the divide and enabled an ease of movement and interaction among the cross border communities. Livestock and other natural resources are now being shared without resorting to violence; two cross border markets were established with UNDP support to promote trade. Additionally, dispute resolution mechanisms in the form of security councils have been established in Uganda and South Sudan at all levels from the village to district to resolve any disputes in the future.
UNDP plans to scale up the support to these initiatives through its Northern Uganda programme for 2013-2014.