Women in Marsabit County have told off men over their failure to end ethnic clashes and foster peace in the northern region.
Gender plays a key role in conflict and women have now vowed to take the lead in bringing rival communities together.
On Sunday, a section of women from the Gabra, Borana and Burji communities met under the Marsabit Muslim Agency to find a long-lasting solution to insecurity.
Ms Qabale Garma from Badasa Location told journalists that they resolved to get involved because the tensions had affected women more than men.
“We’ve resolved to walk together and preach peace across the county. We’ll no longer allow ourselves to be sucked into war,” Ms Garma said.
She said the deeply entrenched patriarchal system had largely contributed to the instability by motivating men to participate in violence.
Regrettably, some women encourage their men to take part in ethnic conflicts. Some women look down upon men who refuse to participate in either cattle raids or retaliatory attacks.
Ms Garma, however, said women carried the heaviest burden of war.
“After keeping quiet for a long time, we have decided to speak up and end the bloodshed. We are always suffering silently,” she said.
They pledged to fight for harmony by walking from village to village in the war-torn zones to preach peace.
They have initiated a range of peace building activities, such as dialogue among rival communities, which could restore trust. They have also vowed to stop protecting criminals in their homes.
Human rights violations
“For more than two decades, Marsabit has experienced ethnic conflicts, often accompanied by gross human rights violations against women and children. It’s time to stop,” she said.
Ms Karu Duba highlighted the predicaments women go through during conflicts, saying there had been zero focus on them yet they were subjected to physical and psychological torture.
She said men are always the perpetrators of violence, while women are the silent victims, no matter what role they play in the conflicts.
“Women are the ones who bear the brunt when their children or men are killed in battle,” Ms Duba said.
The trauma experienced has a deep impact on their psychological and reproductive health, depriving them of the ability to undertake their responsibilities, she added.
Other local women leaders, including Korke Konse, Shulani Mollu, Fatuma Godana and Mallou Banto, vowed to work together to bring peace.
No winners and losers
They pointed out that there were no winners and losers in war as the region suffers economic decline when businesses are burnt down, homes demolished and men killed.
They appealed to militants to stop killing children and women and pledged to shun, shame and report perpetrators of such criminal activities.
Marsabit Muslim Elders Council Chairperson Ibrahim Moshe regretted that women are rarely represented in peace negotiations despite their huge contribution to the society
“Women make up the biggest population of the county. We were glad to meet a group of women from different communities who were willing to be frontrunners in preaching peace; it’s a step in the right direction,” Mr Moshe said.
He urged authorities to prioritise women in peace building missions since most of them are survivors of ethnic violence.
“The only cure for the overlapping ills in the region is an injection of both political and communal resolve to stress the need for women in peace building missions,” Mr Moshe said.