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Armed pastoralists hinder IGAD’s proposal of free across borders movement

armed pastoralists

An armed herder from a village in Baringo County drives his cattle to grazing fields. Armed pastoralists are threatening proposal by IGAD to have them move with their animals freely across borders. Photo: Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera.

The proposal by Inter-Gov­ern­mental Au­thor­ity on De­vel­op­ment (IGAD) to allow easy migration of livestock and herders across borders is under threat due to armed pastoralists among Turkana and Pokot communities in Kenya.

IGAD is a trading block which covers 5.2m km2 in the Horn of Africa with eight member countries; Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

Already politicians in Uganda where the organization just finished consulting experts and their counterparts in South Sudan have warned that the free movement of pastoralists and their livestock may not be possible if Kenya does not disarm the Turkana.

According to a 2013 Case Study of the Pokot and Turkana by Simon Miiri Gitau for the University of Nairobi, many pastoral communities in Africa have experienced armed violence, with East Africa and the horn of Africa having sustained levels of inter pastoral armed violence.

The study further indicates that the Turkana and Pokot are both Nilotes native to the Turkana County (Bordering Uganda from western side, Sudan and Ethiopia from North) and Pokot county Kenya. The two communities are armed with sophisticated arms and ammunition to guard their livestock and themselves from any threats hence the fear from the neihbouring countries.

Head of Dryland Development and Climate Change Adaptation at IGAD, Dr Adan Bika, said the plan is to have a protocol on transhumance (the seasonal movement of herders and their livestock in search of water and pasture) signed by early 2019.

According to IGAD officials, they have sought and got approvals from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.

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But Samson Lokeris, Dodoth East Member of Parliament in Uganda, said that the only way that the protocol will gain acceptance is if Kenya disarms its pastoralists.

“Igad have told us they will deal with the issue of cattle rustlers. But for this protocol to go through, they have to deal with the outstanding matter of disarming the people in Kenya,” he said.

Similar sentiments have previously been raised by Dr Martin Elia Lomuro, South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, who said that one of the things his country needs resolved are raids carried out by Turkana pastoralists.

He added that before South Sudan can agree to the transhumance protocol, the Turkana culture of cattle rustling has to be dealt with.

According to protocol on transhumance, livestock owner will be required to register and get a certificate that lists his number of herders and animals hence it enhances the security of pastoralists and their host communities.

When pasture is depleted and herders resolve to drive their livestock into a neighbouring country, some effort will be needed to make sure there is no change in the numbers. And if there is a change, an explanation will be sought from the livestock owners.

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