Closed to Progress

An assessment of the socio-economic impact of conflict on pastoral and semi-pastoral economies in Kenya and Uganda

by Mohamud Adan and Ruto Pkalya

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Executive summary

This assessment was commissioned by Practical Action Eastern Africa as part of a larger program envisaged at providing useful data and information on conflicts and their socio-economic impacts on pastoral and semi pastoral economies in Kenya and Karamoja region of Uganda. The study sought, among other things, to determine the impact of conflict on social service delivery, agricultural production, trade and investment as well as the nexus between conflict and HIV AIDS.

Among the key findings, the study found out that competition over access and control of scarce natural resources underlies most of the conflicts in arid and semi arid areas in Eastern Africa. Resource use conflicts are many in areas that have water and pasture as communities in the neighbourhood jostle over usage and ownership rights, making such areas violence hot spots.

These resource conflicts have over the years been aggravated by climatic changes occasioned by more frequent and regular droughts and reduced water access especially in arid cross-border areas in Eastern Africa. Herders, driven out of their rangelands by droughts, have more often than not invaded private farmlands and ranches in search of grazing resources resulting in tension and violent conflicts. Kwanza division in Trans Nzoia district and the Pokomo farmlands on the banks of River Tana in Tana River district are classical examples of these herder invasions on private property.

Conflicts in the assessment areas have been compounded by a succession of poorly designed policies on matters affecting pastoralists that have destabilised the livelihoods of these communities, mainly by disrupting nomadism, and failing to provide alternatives to these communities for self sustenance. Indirect goal of sedentralising pastoral communities as a way of ‘modernising’ them as perpetuated by successive colonial and post colonial administrations in Eastern Africa has only served to marginalize them further, in the process shutting them out of important decision making and policy formulation and implementation processes.

Cattle stealing (often referred to as cattle rustling/raiding) involves the theft of livestock and is a major primer of conflict in the sample districts. While this practise has some precedence in the cultural histories of most pastoral communities, it has degenerated into a vicious criminal enterprise that has broken free of all checks offered by the respective cultures. This kind of conflict is very pronounced in Marsabit, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana, Marakwet, Trans Nzoia and Moroto districts.

The assessment found out that cattle rustling has been commercialised in the recent past. Cases of well-organised raiding missions to gather spoils for the market were reported in Turkana, West Pokot, Marakwet and Samburu districts. It was alleged that wealthy individuals are actively involved in organising cattle raids, the proceeds of which they purchase for sale at various livestock markets.

A number of livestock have been lost through cattle rustling conflicts in the areas assessed. In total, it is estimated that 459,905 livestock valued at over 5 billion Kenya Shillings were stolen in the districts assessed between 1994-2004. Moreover, by all means, these ?gures are under reported.

Human deaths are a major and highly visible impact of con?ict. Between 1994 and 2004, the study found one that 3,094 deaths were reported as a direct consequence of con?ict, with estimates of unreported fatalities at several times this number.

In addition to human causalities, the assessment established that at least 206,830 people have been displaced by conflicts in the sampled districts. This segment of the population has been completely cut off from their livelihood options and made vulnerable to a number of calamities such as diseases.

In the assessed districts, delivery of social services has greatly been affected by conflicts. At least 94 schools were closed at one time or the other as conflict heightened. Some of the schools are still closed up to now, dealing a major blow to the Free Primary Education programme being implemented by the Kenyan government. In the same vein, a similar number of health facilities have been affected by conflict in the study areas.

This assessment established that trade and commerce in ASAL areas affected by conflict have been adversely affected. The commercialisation of cattle rustling has led to intermittent closures of major livestock markets as security officials try to curtail commercial rustling. However, the true losers in these situations are the honest herders trying to cash in on their hard work.

Food production has also taken a heavy beating from conflict. When conflict force farmers to flee their farms, large swathes of farmland are left bare, leading to a drop in production. Over the past ten years, a cumulative 43,470 acres of land has been left fallow because of conflict, representing 16,655 tonnes of lost cereal production valued at Kshs 384,861,111. In areas where farming is largely for subsistence, the effects of diminished food production translate into food insecurity. In Tana River district, the percentage of food-insecure households runs in excess of 70 % largely owing to disruption of farming by Orma-Pokomo clashes.

For livestock producers, the losses manifest themselves in animals lost to disease as veterinary services collapse. Insecurity also forces herders to congregate animals in safe areas, providing an opportunity for disease pandemics. More importantly, conflict forces pastoral communities to flee high potential grazing lands, which are often scenes of clashes over pasture and water. This causes massive losses owing to starvation of livestock. According to livestock production officers in sample districts, production loses to conflict average 10-50 % of potential capacity. Numerous animals are also lost to raids and counter raids.

Social service delivery has also taken a decline. During conflicts, dispensaries are closed and essential medicines run out. As is the case in all outbreaks of violence, deaths from medical conditions that would have otherwise been controlled occur.

Another sector that takes a heavy toll from conflict is education. The assessment established that while reported incidences of closures are moderate, the effect of conflict on actual school attendance is far much more than closure figures suggest. For instance, in Tana River, the study established that between 1994 and 2002 only 36.6% of primary school age children were in school, a situation attributed to insecurity and the resultant poverty in the district. This effect spilled over to secondary school enrolment where a paltry 14.32 % of those eligible were enrolled. In addition, the education of girls suffers more in conflict prone areas.
A link between conflict and HIV/AIDS was also established. Dispossessed internally displaced persons are often forced to engage in risky sexual behaviour as a way of surviving. Further, the disruption of health and social services that accompanies conflict has also reduced awareness over HIV/AIDS, and thereby reduced the numbers of people practising safe sex.

Conflict also engenders violation of women’s rights; in particular, rape has become a despicable accessory to inter community clashes. Warriors who are infected in this way are in a position to marry more wives by virtue of their ill-gotten wealth, and therefore more chances of passing on the infection to unwitting brides. Rustlers do also get infected for those they rape could be HIV positive.

The study also established that conflict has stimulated the emergence of a new cultural component in ASAL areas, the Gun Culture. This can be defined as the emergence of the gun as a central fixture in the determination of social and cultural hierarchies, and the widespread indiscriminate use of firearms in violent clashes. This has placed pressure on communities, especially men to acquire guns, for self defence as well as prestige. The result is a proliferation of small arms and an escalation of conflicts. While estimates of illegal arms in the sample districts vary considerably, this study estimates that there are in excess of 222,995 illegal firearms in the sample districts, worth a staggering 16.7 billion shillings, enough money to meet the relevant Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aspirations in the sample districts.

In conclusion, the assessment inferred that rampant violence has had a devastating impact on social and economic status of affected communities. What shocked the assessors was not so much the damage, immense as it is, but lack of decisive action by relevant governments and non state actors.

The roots of conflict are deep and intertwined, and will need patient but concerted efforts by all to pull out. To facilitate this process, the assessment makes the following key recommendations:

First, the respective governments and non-state actors in Eastern Africa should strive to understand these conflicts, discern their root causes and enjoin respective communities in peace building efforts. Previous peace building efforts especially the ones undertaken by the respective governments have failed simply because the said actors prescribed wrong strategies for the said conflicts. Historical land injustices and pastoral communities’ marginalization are some of the issues that need to be discerned and discussed if conflicts in most of the sampled districts are to be managed.

Secondly, governments in the Eastern Africa region need to formulate and implement Policies on Conflict Management and Peace Building. Such policies could provide frameworks for understanding some of these conflicts, how to manage them, institutionalize and legalize the role of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, mainstream gender and age relations in conflict management, check the proliferation of illicit arms as well as strengthen community policing.

Thirdly, there is need to mop up illicit arms in the region. Easy access and availability of guns have amplified conflicts in the region. Mopping up of these weapons should be programmed as part of a long term confidence building exercise between the government, warring communities and the civil society that will eventfully convince the holders of illegal arms to surrender them. It must, however, be noted that voluntary surrender will only work if communities feel their security is assured. The government retains its prerogative to forcibly seize such arms, but should exercise this with restraint and prudence.

Fourth, there is need to strengthen service delivery in ASAL areas. Closing the underdevelopment gap in ASAL areas is central to reducing conflicts; in particular, the diversification of livelihoods is intractable from reducing conflicts related to resource use. Services that need to be strengthened include education, health and physical infrastructure.

Extension in veterinary and crop production services will also need to be strengthened to enable sufficient production within the limits on resources imposed by nature. In the same vein, trade should be vigorously promoted in ASAL areas as a way of increasing returns on livestock keeping, thereby relieving poverty, and the pressure to raid to survive. Particular actions requires in this direction include construction of satellite abattoirs, trunk roads to major markets locally and abroad as well as provision of credit facilities to livestock producers and traders.

Fifth, it is recommended that various intercommunity peace-building activities be undertaken. Successes recorded so far in the use of sport, folk media, poetry dance and song should be built upon as a way of complimenting the traditional and age-old peace dialogues and talks. Efforts should also be made to recognise and strengthen traditional conflict resolution mechanisms.

Finally, the capacities of the various rural and pastoral communities, their indigenous organizations and other non-state actors should lobby and demand that the government provide and guarantee them security as enshrined in the respective countries national constitutions should be strengthened. Capacities of community groups such as peace committees should also be strengthened especially in documentation so that in future accurate conflict data that are not subject to Government’s bureaucratic system and red tape could be easily obtained. Conflict diaries could be designed and distributed to such groups at the grassroots level.

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