The Pokot-Karamojong-Turkana and Sabiny (POKATUSA) peace and development program is based in Kapenguria. It was founded to facilitate and coordinate sustainable peace and development initiatives among pastoralist communities in Kenya and Uganda. Established in 1997 by community kraal leaders (elders) and formally registered in 2010, it works to improve their livelihoods and help ensure the peaceful co-existence of all peoples along the border, through the adoption community-friendly initiatives and a broad-based mobilisation of resources, involving all relevant parties.It is dedicated to creating peace in the Pokatusa region.
The POKATUSA program was created to respond to the long-running conflict between pastoralist communities in northwest Kenya, in Turkana and Pokot, and northeast Uganda, in Karamojong and Sabiny. The conflict, which is essential about pasture and livestock issues, has been exacerbated over the last 20 years by the wide availability of small arms. The combination of conflict and poverty has left the region lagging behind in social and economic development, having destroyed lives and livelihoods.
POKATUSA works to promote peaceful co-existence between the Pokot and Sabei communities living on the Kenyan-Ugandan broder through inter-ethnic dialogue.The three main types of conflict event are:
- Cattle rustling conflict: the communities fight over cattle through organised raids and cattle theft organised by small groups. Small weapons like AK-47 are commonly used to facilitate the raids. In the last ten years many people have been killed and property destroyed.
- Banditry: this small scale violence takes place among the communities. Organised gangs form groups which mostly target individuals and business premises. They take advantage of the unmanned Kenya-Uganda border. They too steal livestock.
- Pasture related conflict: the Pokot and Sabei communities are nomadic pastoralists. During the dry season, they move around with their livestock in search of pasture and water. With large cattle stock, these become a scarce resource, leading to conflict over their use.
The root causes of this conflict include:
- Poverty: there is high poverty among the Pokot and Sabei people, especially their youth. This is partly due to poor infrastructure and government neglect Though the area is fertile and highly productive, it cannot be put into use due to the raging conflict
- Harmful cultural practices: cattle rustling, over time, has become a cultural marker. It a way of expressing courage and heroism; those who raid are treated with respect and honour. POKATUSU works to change this attitude.
- Unemployment: Many young people depend on cattle rustling as their only source of income. The high illiteracy rate and high unemployment rated even for the educated mean that many young people have no other option than to resort to raiding.
- Incitement by political elites: Politicians have incited their communities to rustle cattle
- Revenge and counter-revenge: the people whose cows have been stolen and relatives killed respond in kind. This leads to an exacerbation of the conflict.
POKATUSA works to reduce conflict primarily by hosting inter-community and inter-ethnic dialogue and reconciliation activities. It has undertaken various interventions aimed at reducing conflict:
1997-2006: The organisation partnered with World Vision to undertake a huge peacebuilding project with the purpose of uniting the four tribes mentioned above. The impact of the initiative was good, with the number of inter-ethnic organised raids reduced from 41 in 1997 to 23 in 2006.
2007-2010: A peace caravan campaign aimed at reducing violent conflict was organised. The caravan created a platform for communities to openly air their views on the root causes of conflict. Through the peace caravan approach, POKATUSA was able to minimise the number of raids from 27 in 2007 to 11 in 2011.
2011-2013: In collaboration with religious leaders from 32 denominations, four peace crusades were conducted, helping to increase understanding and reduce conflict further.
Peter Longurabol (above) was a feared fighter. A Pokot, his raiding expeditions used to extend to the Turkana, Karamoja and Sabei communities. He participated in more than a hundred raids, killing a dozen people and stealing 950 cows. His body tells the story, full of bullet wounds - some not yet healed. When POKATUSA was formed, thier primary target was to transform such notorious cattle rustlers. Peter Longurabol was among the list of warriors to target. Through various strategies, Longurabol and 11 others accepted the message of peace. POKATUSA took him forums and events to change his mindset. The turning point came in 2003. Since then, he has been a face of peace among the four tribes, and has participated in 23 inter-community peace missions. He is currently a church elder and chair of five village peace committees in the region. Through POKATUSA, he has helped transform more than 300 other former fighters into peacekeepers.Last updated: December 2014