Ending The Armed Conflict Between Communities In Ethiopia And Kenya

Ending The Armed Conflict Between Communities In Ethiopia And Kenya

Year(s): 2004 – 2017.

Location: Ethiopia/Kenya International Border.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

Type of Conflict: Horizontal (non-state) Intrastate Conflict, Risk of Interstate Conflict.

Type of Initiative: Local action, the mediation of a peace agreement, and stabilising borders.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): Local people and organisations.

Impact: Limited.

Summary: The 2005-2009 conflict between the Gabra and Borana communities on the Ethiopia/Kenya border was ended, stabilising the frontier, and reducing the likelihood of further conflict.

Description of Case 

The territory around the Ethiopia-Kenya border is home to a range of pastoralist and agropastoralist groups, many of whom traverse the frontier to access seasonal pastures. The Gabra and Borana are two such groups whose communities span both sides of the border. Historically, occasional cattle raiding was the only violent feature of otherwise peaceful relations between these groups. However, increasing pressure on water and pasture reserves in recent decades (combined with the proliferation of small arms) placed great strain on this dynamic. Recurrent droughts in the early 2000s devastated the Borama, who lost almost 80 per cent of their livestock and 98 per cent of their crops.[1] In this context, a dispute over an alleged murder quickly escalated into a raid by the Gabra on the diminished herds of the Borana in June 2002. Initial efforts to calm the situation succeeded in preventing any immediate escalation, and in 2005 local peace committees even mediated a formal peace agreement.[2] However, just a week later, more clashes and raids took place. Skirmishes continued until, on 12 July 2005, approximately 1,000 Gabra conducted a series of raids on the Barana, killing 95 people, destroying villages, and rustling over 10,000 head of livestock.[3] The raiders were eventually chased away by Kenyan security forces, but the shocking attack left the Gabra and Barana locked in a conflict that could have easily escalated into an international crisis had either Kenyan or Ethiopian security personnel become embroiled in the fighting.

Beginning in 2007, elders from both sides of the border began trying to broker a peace between the communities, combining traditional and innovative methods to contain small conflicts and forging local agreements to end feuds and disputes. After laying this foundation, the elders hosted peace conferences encompassing representatives from across society in 2009.[4] These conferences served to systematically end the fighting in each area they took place in, incrementally spreading peace. At an event hosted by the Kenyan National Steering Committee in August 2009, representatives from both communities signed the Dukana-Dillo-Maikona Declaration, pledging to share water and facilitate cross-border trade, while also agreeing to compensation rates for lost lives and livestock. In 2017, the Declaration was updated and reaffirmed.[5] While conflict between pastoralist groups remains a pervasive challenge to peace in the Horn of Africa, these measures ended the conflict between the Borama and the Gabra and reduced armed conflict on the Ethiopian-Kenyan border.

[1] UCDP. Borana – Gabra. (UCDP, 2021) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/nonstate/5534 (Accessed 18/11/2021)

[2] Vincent Achuka. “How killing of Gabra man led to massacre in Turbi.” Nation. (9 June 2019) Available at: https://nation.africa/kenya/news/how-killing-of-gabra-man-led-to-massacre-in-turbi-175566?view=htmlamp (Accessed 18/11/2021)

[3] Oscar Gakuo Mwangi. “Kenya: Conflict in the ‘Badlands’: The Turbi Massacre in Marsabit District.” Review of African Political Economy, Vol. 33, No. 107. (2006) p.81

[4] Pastoralist Communication Initiative. “The Long Conversation – Gabra-Borana Peace: A Summary of Findings from the research led by the Pastoralist Shade Initiative.” Pastoralists.org. (11 October 2011) Available at: http://www.pastoralists.org/key-findings-on-achieving-peace-released/ (Accessed 18/11/2021)

[5] Validation of the Reviews and Amendments on Dukana-Dillo-Maikona Declaration, 2017. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/wview/1910/Validation%20of%20the%20Reviews%20and%20Amendments%20on%20Dukana-Dillo-Maikona%20Declaration (Accessed 18/11/2021)