Warring communities in Isiolo, Meru sign peace deal

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding. He said the communities living along the Meru/Isiolo border have resolved end conflicts.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Warring communities living along Isiolo-Meru border have signed a peace agreement as part of the efforts to end cattle rustling and clashes between farmers and herders.

The signing of the peace deal was done at a meeting in Ndumuru attended by hundreds of representatives from Meru, Somali, Borana and Turkana communities’ and witnessed by top security officials and politicians from both counties and the clergy. 

The clashes have resulted in loss of dozens of lives, thousands of animals, displacement of families and destruction to properties in the recent past.

The accord that was read out by peace champion Joycephine Ekiru was brokered after a series of dialogue meetings between the communities in the last one year, and highlights ways to end conflicts over boundaries and resources exacerbated by the prolonged drought.

Besides conflicts over resources, the fights are fueled by proliferation of illegal firearms even as rogue politicians capitalize on the conflicts to displace communities from the border point for them to benefit from earmarked mega projects such as Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (Lapsset) and Isiolo Resort City.

Among the disputed areas include Ndumuru, Kachiuru and Kiutine in Meru and Gotu, Shaba, Attan, Kiwanja and Chumvi Yare in Isiolo that are within the proposed Isiolo Resort City area.

Ms Ekiru said the document calls for promotion of peace and reconciliation among the communities for realization of development and to allow the residents to go on with their activities uninterrupted.

“The agreement contains resolutions and recommendations by several actors in the affected communities who include the clergy, administration team, peace committees and the clergy among other stakeholders which will be piloted for the next three years,” she said.

The agreement also proposes approaches for disarmament and coordination among the security players as well as consultative ways of sharing resources among the communities.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding and his Meru counterpart Fred Dunga said the communities had resolved to end fighting and embrace peace which was a crucial ingredient to development.

Mr Omoding said the peace accord, which will be deposited in a court of law, will create synergies to aid in collaborative peace initiatives among the security actors.

“We are committed to ensure the agreement is strictly followed for the desired results to be achieved,” he said while warning that those who violate it will face full force of the law.

Mr Dunga, on the other hand,  said desired results could only be achieved through concerted efforts by all stakeholders warning that laxity among the administrators and police officers will not be tolerated.

“All the players must be held responsible for their actions including myself. We will not allow lame excuses from our officers because we mean business,” he said.

The administrator said measures will be put in place to ensure all those found culpable of cattle rustling are arrested and prosecuted and directed chiefs not to spare anyone.

“If animals are traced to your homestead, you will face the law,” Mr Dunga warned, assuring of prompt and coordinated approach in dealing with cattle rustling.

Appeals were also made for introduction of law to discourage the outdated practice that is ingrained in some of the traditions and ensure punitive measures against those found culpable of the crime.

Igembe North MP Julius Taitumu hailed the agreement saying it will achieve desired results but demanded that rogue chiefs allegedly on Isiolo side be sacked.

The MP claimed that one of the Isiolo chiefs within the border point had refused to hand over some recovered animals that were stolen from Meru neighbours.

“We demand that while we open a new page that the recovered animals be released to the owners,” he said, while asking the security agencies to be prompt in responding to insecurity issues.

“I wonder about the timely response that the security team is talking about when our people make reports only for the concerned authorities to respond the following day. This is slowly making residents lose confidence in our security apparatuses”.

Ngaremara MCA Peter Losu called for employment of native chiefs who are aware of challenges facing local communities and who can gel with the residents for better community policing.

“Our neighbours in Meru should consider picking chiefs from Borana, Somali, Turkana and Samburu communities and not foreigners who hardly visit their jurisdictions,” Mr Losu said.

Isiolo County Police Commander Hassan Barua said grazing committees will be activated to aid in resource sharing and ending the conflicts.

“Killing and stealing are against the biblical and Islamic teachings. Why not work hard and earn a decent income?” he posed while asking residents to promptly report crime incidents for fast action.