Ending The Armed Conflict In Kenya (Wajir)

Ending The Armed Conflict In Kenya (Wajir)

Year(s): 1993.

Location: Wajir County, North Eastern Province, Kenya.

UN Regional Group: Africa.

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

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

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The UN and the governments of Portugal, USA, and USSR.

Impact: Lasting.

Summary: The armed conflict between clans in Wajir County, Kenya, was ended in 1993

Description of Case 

Wajir is a county located in Kenya’s North Eastern Province bordering Somalia and Ethiopia. This frontier region is remote, home to a large Somali population, and was essentially lawless during the 1980s and 1990s, particularly after collapse of the Barré regime in Somalia in 1991. Home to three pastoralist Somali clans, the Ajuran, Degodia, and Ogaden, Wajir has a long history of low-intensity conflicts over resources.[1] When arms proliferated across the region and substantial numbers of Somalians fled over the border in 1991, considerable strain was placed on resources in the area. It was in this context that North Eastern Province prepared for the December 1992 Kenyan general election – the first multi-party contest since independence. In Wajir District, the election came to be viewed as a competition between the clans for territorial dominance, with contested constituencies becoming the targets of violent campaigns to manipulate demographics through forced evictions. In Wajir-West, for example, Degodia leaders allegedly won the election by bringing in clan members from outside the constituency to outnumber the local Ajuran population.[2] After the election, the Degodia administration exclusively distributed government positions within the clan, leaving the Ajuran fearful of the complete loss of their lands and influence. In June 1993, clashes erupted into an open conflict which quickly spread across north-eastern Kenya, costing the lives of 1,200 people.[3]

Efforts to end the conflict began when Dekha Ibrahim Abdi and another woman intervened to stop violence taking place at a market in Wajir. Following the event, they formed Wajir Women for Peace Group and were soon joined by other civil society groups to form the Wajir Peace Group. These local organisations engaged with clan elders and managed to convene a peace conference with the help of the local member of parliament. The talks concluded with the creation of a 36-person cross-clan council which was mandated to bring an end to the conflict.[4] By employing some traditional Somali peacemaking methods (xeer and diya) and incorporating a broad range of stakeholders, this council was able to oversee the end of hostilities and succeeded in mediating the Al Fatah Peace Declaration, which was signed on 29 September 1993.[5] The declaration essentially represented a code of conduct for relations between the clans in Wajir, but it also called for the creation of peace committees encompassing elders, government officials, security personnel, and NGOs to prevent further conflicts.[6]

[1] National Cohesion and Integration Commission & Interpeace. Voices of the People: Impediments to Peace and Community and Resilience in Wajir County. (Nairobi, 2021) p.2

[2] Ken Menkhaus. “The rise of a mediated state in northern Kenya: the Wajir story and its implications for state-building.” Afrika Focus, Vol. 21, No. 2. (2008) p.25

[3] Richard Carver. “Kenya Since the Elections.” WRITENET. (1 January 1994) Available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6c2c.html (Accessed 22/11/2021)

[4] Rashid Abdi. “A Dying Breed of Peacemakers in Kenya’s North East.” International Crisis Group. (18 November 2015) Available at: https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/kenya/dying-breed-peacemakers-kenya-s-north-east (Accessed 22/11/2021)

[5] Al-Fatah Peace Declaration, 1993. Available at: https://www.peaceagreements.org/wview/1916/Al-Fatah%20Peace%20Declaration (Accessed 22/11/2021)

[6] Paul van Tongeren. “Potential cornerstone of infrastructures for peace? How local peace committees can make a difference.” Peacebuilding, Vol. 1, No. 1. (2013) pp.41-2