Involving morans in peacebuilding initiatives is slowly gaining traction as peace players seek to augment the role of elders in bringing peaceful coexistence among warring communities.
Because they are at the centre of cattle rustling, a major security threat in pastoralist counties, young warriors are among key actors whose input cannot be overlooked, players say.
Cattle rustling is a deeply rooted cultural practice, with morans stealing livestock to “replenish” their stock and show heroism, besides using it to accumulate wealth despite the risk of being killed by rivals during raids or police officers pursuing stolen animals.
While the proliferation of illegal firearms and recurrent drought that forces pastoralists to move with their animals in search of water and pastures are among the drivers of conflicts and rustling, the practice has been commercialised, with rogue traders cashing in on pastoralists’ woes.
Isiolo Peace Link is among the organisations that have rolled out initiatives seeking to engage morans from warring communities in Northern Kenya and the North Rift in promoting peace, cohesion and partnerships.
Children Peace Initiative and Action Aid last weekend brought together over 30 morans from the Turkana, Borana and Samburu communities in Isiolo and Pokot and the Ilchamus (Njemps) in Baringo for a 71km peace marathon.
The warriors converged for a one-day peace dialogue in Timau, Buuri West, where they bonded, ate and danced together before participating in last Sunday’s race that went through Meru, Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties.
Flagging off the race that organisers said will be held annually, Buuri West Deputy County Commissioner Kipkoech Labat asked pastoralist communities to shun conflicts over resources and coexist as peace is a crucial ingredient for development.
“The government is committed to supporting peace initiatives and ensuring security for all Kenyans,” he said.
The morans joined Aremiet Primary School pupils in Kilimani before embarking on a three-kilometre walk to Isiolo town meant to educate learners on the need for peace.
Mr John Lolim, a moran from the Pokot community in Tiaty constituency, Baringo County, pledged support for the peace initiatives.
“There is no need to fight one another. The blood that flows in my veins is the same for my brothers in the communities we have been fighting with. If you kill to steal, you will answer during judgment day,” he said during the climax event of the marathon at the Isiolo town police grounds.
Another moran, Mr James Lokunyuko from the Turkana community in Isiolo, said they had not had peace dialogues with the Samburu, with whom they have fought for a long time.
“We need more engagements so that all morans are enlightened on the need to quit rustling,” he said, revealing that those who participated in the event were selected by elders to represent other morans.
Mr Lokunyuko blamed cattle rustling on illiteracy, saying the majority of those who raid manyattas to steal livestock have not set foot in school.
“Some of us who were lucky to go to school cannot engage in rustling. If more [morans]are empowered and helped to achieve the highest level of education or to join technical schools, the practice will be a thing of the past,” he said.
Simon Lebei, a Samburu moran, said the government should empower the warriors to get other sources of income and quit rustling.
“We will sit down with other morans and educate them on the need for peace,” he said.
Namaiyo Lechuta and John Esimit said they were confident fighting would end and promised to preach peace in their Pokot and Turkana communities.
Eastern region Peace Community Policing coordinator Julius Mutabari said involving morans in peace initiatives is a higher version of the traditional engagement of elders.
Inspector Mutabari hailed the inclusion of the Children Peace Initiative, saying children suffer most during conflicts and thus the need to cultivate in them the culture of cohesion regardless of one’s ethnic group.
“The morans will be required to be agents of change in their communities,” the officer said.
Isiolo Peace Link Executive Director Abdia Mohammud said the marathon was aimed at enhancing ongoing reconciliatory efforts by several actors and elders from warring communities.
“We decided to change the discourse and bring together morans from feuding communities that we have never engaged before,” Ms Mohammud said, stressing the need to involve all peace and security actors.
She said they also support Alternative Dispute Resolution so that courts are not burdened by petty cases that can be resolved by elders.
The marathoners were trained by Kenya’s legend Atoi Boru, the 1992 World under-20 champion in the 1,500-metre race, who hails from Isiolo.
Mr Boru asked State and non-State actors to nurture talents among the morans so that they can be empowered economically.
“Promoting talent is among the ways to keep them busy and ensure they do not engage in cattle rustling,” he said.