Responses to pastoral wars

Responses to pastoral wars

How can pastoral violence in East Africa be resolved?

This Issue Brief reviews the causes and consequences of, as well as the responses to, conflicts in pastoralist areas in the Sudan–Uganda–Kenya region.

Pastoral violence has been transformed in recent years by a number of factors including:

  • economic and political marginalisation
  • active resistance by pastoralist communities to assimilation
  •  resource depletion and demographic changes
  • the growing availability of small arms and light weapons.

These conditions have transformed low level periodic violence into chronic, sometimes intensive, conflicts between pastoral communities.

The report finds that despite growing tension, governments in the region do not invest sufficiently in programmes that redress the structural causes of violence in pastoral regions – reactive, intrusive, and coercive disarmament campaigns are the norm. These approaches are not very effective as they target specific groups, leaving disarmed communities vulnerable to predation by neighbouring tribes.

The report recommends instead that Governments should concentrate on:

  • focused development interventions
  • reciprocal security guarantees between conflicting parties
  • support for customary conflict resolution mechanisms

The brief concludes that recent peace-building activities of CSOs in the region have indeed eased tensions and provided workable security arrangements by establishing locally-accountable ‘peace committees’ – with the aim of anticipating, preventing, and resolving disputes before they flare into full-blown violence.

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