Mr Joseph Moit recalls vividly his 15 years among warriors from Lorengippi village, Turkana County, who fought their Pokot counterparts in a drawn-out conflict.
Other communities involved were the Dodoth, Jie and Karamajong from Uganda.
Growing up as a herdsboy, he said, education was never on his mind.
That is how he was lured into becoming a warrior. His peers would raid neighbouring communities and steal livestock to either have their own or increase the herd.
The father of 10 children said the problem with armed conflict was that the raided community would organise revenge attacks that could see them recover all the stolen livestock plus others belonging to innocent villagers.
"In raids and revenge attacks many of my friends have been killed, lost livestock and been injured by gunshots, and innocent villagers are forced to flee or rely on relief food for survival," Mr Moit said.
Fear of being killed and living behind his children to suffer prompted him to abandon the retrogressive culture of cattle rustling and embrace peace championed by peace ambassadors, the Ministry of Interior, the county government and the United Nations Development Programme.
The peacebuilding efforts were stepped up in 2019 in Moroto, northern Uganda, when President Uhuru Kenyatta and President Yoweri Museveni witnessed the historic signing of a memorandum of understanding for cross-border peace and development in the Turkana-Pokot-Karamoja region along the border of the two countries.
The MoU that was signed by Kenyan and Ugandan ministers was described as a new dawn for the communities that had witnessed cattle rustling and armed conflict over resources for a long time.
As a dividend for sustained peace, the Kenyan government invested Sh750 million in mega dams in West Pokot, Turkana and Marsabit counties in efforts to address water shortages on Kenya’s borders with Uganda and Ethiopia.
In dry seasons, hundreds of pastoralists from Turkana and West Pokot cross into Uganda for water at the Kobebe Dam in Moroto, a situation that exposes them to renewed armed conflicts.
On the other hand, in February last year, UNDP launched an Africa Borderlands Centre (ABC) to promote integration and exploit the economic potential of marginalised, fragile and impoverished borderland regions of the continent with a population of 270 million through research, policy analysis and dedicated programming.
The ABC initiative has captured Mr Moit and other Lorengippi/Lokiriama ward villagers in 32 groups of reformed warriors, women’s groups and youth groups.
They will benefit from business asset grants as part of an initiative against Covid-19 and climate shocks. The grants are being administered by the National Drought Management Authority (NDMA).
Loima Deputy County Commissioner Timothy Tirop said the villagers had established manyatta kiosks but they had no adequate stock after most were hit hard by Covid-19 containment measures.
Mr Moit’s business, for instance, was hurt when Uganda, where he used to get most of his stock, especially food items, was placed under lockdown due to the pandemic.
"I was not able to travel to Uganda to buy stock. With schools and hotels also closed I was forced to release my remaining stock as food for my family," he said.
DCC Tirop said each group received grants worth Sh120,000, depending on the nature of the business and included cereals, beekeeping and harvesting gear, farm equipment, livestock, fuel, cereals milling machines and beads as business startup stock.
"The groups that comprise locals mainly from Urum, Lorengkippi, Loya and Lokiriama villages were identified and vetted late last year by a joint team of officers from UNDP, NDMA, and the county directorates of trade, gender and youth affairs," he said.
Mr Tirop, who led local administrators in supervising the distribution of business assets and stock, called on the beneficiaries to sharpen their business acumen and build capital for future growth.
He noted that the grant will also be critical in cementing peace at the border as some reformed warriors, if not supported to embrace alternative sources of livelihoods, would revert to cattle rustling.
He called for close monitoring of the beneficiaries and the provision of additional support in terms of training.
Lorengippi/Lokiriama Ward Administrator Lomeyan Ewoi said groups who were given machines should be monitored to ensure that they work effectively to achieve the intended results.
Mr Ewoi challenged beneficiaries to embrace a culture of saving and reinvest more into their ventures for sustainability.
"Those who lost livestock due to bandit attacks or drought can easily restock them from the proceeds of their businesses," he said.
Most women’s groups benefited from beads as they seek to capitalise on the culture that ensures that women in remote areas get colourful beads.
UNDP official Ahhuna Eziakonwa said the journey had started towards globalising the voices of Africans in the borderlands that have suffered many years of marginalisation and neglect from successive governments and development partners.
Ms Eziakonwa said past interventions by development actors to open up border areas had not yielded the desired results as those areas in Africa still suffer from insecurity and inequalities despite the presence of valuable mineral resources and informal cross-border trade whose value exceeds $1 billion per annum.
The borderland areas, she added, are adversely affected by climate change, which has increased the struggle for scarce resources, leading to conflicts and forced migration.
She said Africa’s vibrant borderlands communities are key in promoting regional economic integration.