This post was originally published on the Ashoka Peace Blog.

The Marakwet and the Pokot communities of Kenya, and their cousins the Karamoja of Uganda, are pastoralist communities who inhabit the dry rangelands of the Northern Rift Valley where pastoralism is the major source of livelihood. The presence of government in this region is limited and the availability of state functions such as security and social services is barely existent. The situation is complicated by the fact that these communities have easy access to small arms such as the dreaded AK 47 and the G3 rifle as a result of state failure and insurgency in the neighbouring countries. Over the years cases of cattle rustling and intercommunity conflicts have led to the loss of thousands of lives and the destruction of property of unknown value.

In 2003, Tegla Loroupe, a world renowned athlete, created an annual series of Peace Marathons sponsored by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation to encourage warriors from these communities who often used their guns to conduct cattle raids on their neighbours to give up firearms and embrace athletics. The Peace Marathons are annual events where communities come together to preach peace and to urge warriors to handover their guns to law enforcement officers in the area. In Kenya the Tegla Loroupe Peace Marathon is held annually in Kapenguria where warriors from the Pokot, Marakwet and the Turkana communities as well as participating from the Sebei and Karamoja communities from Uganda and the Toposa community from Southern Sudan. In Uganda, Tegla Loroupe Peace Marathons have been held in Moroto where warriors from Karamojong’ and Sebei communities and their neighbours the Turkana, Samburu, Pokot and the Marakwet have participated.

The Tegla Loroupe Peace Marathons have been graced by government ministers from Kenya and Uganda, the diplomatic community, Members of Parliament and Corporate Leaders. Through the Peace Marathons community education on peace has been successfully conducted. Further, peace forums have been established through the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation where warriors and community members from these ethnic groups can converge, discuss and resolve issues without resorting to violence. The success of Kenya’s long distance runners in world marathons has also inspired the establishment of the Warriors Athletics Camp where the talents of those who have renounced violence are nurtured by a team of former athletes headed by Miss Loroupe. Lastly, through this initiative an early warning system has been established where reformed warriors work together with the governments of Kenya and Uganda to pass information that prevents impending cattle raids and intercommunity violence over grazing lands and water points.

Photo: 2008 Kapenguria Peace Race