Wednesday, August 29, 2012
by Shaaban Ali Isaak
Nothing captures the cost of war better than the Somali proverbial saying that “a war ends up in the killing of a son and not the birth of a son. This saying which I first heard from my grandfather decades ago, while growing up in the pastoral areas of Gari hills is still relevant in the aftermath of deadly clan clashes that killed more than 60 people in Tana River, Wajir and Mandera. News of violence and bloodshed from northern Kenya at a time when Kenyans are supposed to be enjoying the fruits of a new constitution is deeply worrying.
As I received copies of the country’s three leading newspapers in my office in downtown Nairobi, the gruesome pictures of the victims of the Riketa village massacre appearing on the front page of the newspapers was deeply troubling. Seeing the wailing mothers and the cries of children in the electronic media in Wajir and Mandera was equally disturbing. I would like to condemn in the strongest possible terms the latest resurgence of inter-clan clashes in Northern Kenya.
My thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones in the past week’s deadly violence that has marred Mandera, Wajir and Tana River. I wish to call upon all the residents of these areas to work towards peace and harmony. It was also sad to see the conflict of Mandera County spreading to the neighboring Wajir County - It is time the communities shelve their hostilities and work towards peace and co-existence.
The opportunities in the new devolved government will be lost – if we don’t live in peace and harmony. In a bid to prevent the escalation of the conflict, leaders from Mandera County have started a process that aims to bring the warring communities together. As people of Northern Kenya after years of marginalization by subsequent central governments, we must proof that we can govern and manage our affairs in peace and harmony in the advent of the new devolved government.
The time has come for us to forget this clan minded approach to politics, and base our decisions on merit and an all inclusive approach. As these efforts take shape the government operatives including the security forces need to take their duty of protecting Kenyans seriously. We have to secure our borders to prevent militias from foreign countries that prowl in to the Kenyan territory. Adequate police and security personnel have to be deployed in the affected areas.
I would like to call upon the people of Northern Kenya particularly the opinion leaders to preach peace and ensure that harmony exists within the communities we all represent. At no given time is the interest of a self greater than that of the masses we are all actively seeking to represent. It is imperative that all groups in the society work towards peace and coexistence, I am glad that the elders, government officials, and politicians from the region are trying to seek a solution to the conflict.
In such trying periods the young people need to unite regardless of their clan and try to work towards peace. Youth in the respective areas of Northern Kenya need to work collectively towards peace harmony. The efforts of young people in the social networking site to preach peace is laudable. I am impressed by the work of the lobby groups on the social networking site facebook; such initiatives are great and need to be a continuous process.
I would like to acknowledge the work of peace forums created in the various social networking sites, which are actively seeking to bring young people together and preach peace. The young people of northern Kenya need to take an active role of peacemaking among the communities. In the light of this, I would suggest that educational institutions in Northern Kenya to set up peace clubs that will echo the work of the peace committees in the respective counties.
While the traditional ways of dispute resolutions are still relevant, it is time we think of adopting international conflict resolution models in Northern Kenya. It is also important to see the work of the peace committees enhanced, the government needs to fully invest in this framework. Peace committees across the country need to combat the root causes of conflicts, convening meetings when the violence has escalated will be too little too late.
It is my sincere hope that the people of northern Kenya will choose harmony and tranquility over death, destruction and displacement. The new constitutional dispensation is a golden opportunity which we must seize. Shaaban Ali Isaak is a former assistant minister for Local Authorities and MP for Mandera East.