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Pastoralists’ peace accord stands test of time

Thursday September 26 2019

 Lokiriama Peace Accord

Lokiriama Sub-Location Assistant Chief Mark Ajon Lokwawi explains the Lokiriama Peace Accord signed by Karamojong pastoralists from Uganda and Turkanas in Kenya in 1973 to end cattle rustling. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BARNABAS BII
By BARNABAS BII
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A monument located at a village some 130 kilometres southwest of Lodwar Town has become an icon of peace among warring communities.

The Lokiriama monument near the Kenya-Uganda border was set up in December 1973 following a peace agreement between the Karamojong of Uganda and the Turkana of Kenya negotiated by elders and administrators from the two countries.

BLOOD LETTING

It was meant to usher in an era of peaceful coexistence, stability and development after years of deadly cattle rustling.

Weapons including illegal firearms, spears, arrows, machetes and traditional razorblades were  mopped up and buried at the monument  in a peace pact that was recently renewed by President Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni to enhance cross-border trade and development.

The Lokiriama Peace Accord was meant to end blood-letting among pastoral communities, mainly the Turkana and Karamojong.

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Celebrations to commemorate the accord and reaffirm the commitment of all parties to uphold its content are held every year.

Other than the Turkana and Karamojong, other pastoral tribes, including the Pokot of Kenya, Merrille, Nyangatom and Toposa of South Sudan participate in the ceremony.

“The weapons were buried inside this tomb to signify the end of war and usher in a new chapter of forgiveness, peaceful coexistence and stability among pastoral communities in the region,” Mr Emmanuel Imana, the former Turkana County peace ambassador, said.

CATTLE RAIDS

The marble and cement monument bears names of local leaders from both countries who facilitated the peace pact.

The then Turkana District Commissioner David Olocho and six elders led the Kenyan team, while the Ugandan delegation was led by Mr Akwalem Tioko, the chief of Karamojong, and five elders.

For long, villages around the Lokiriama monument have been basking in peace while their counterparts in eastern and southern Turkana experience insecurity caused by recurrent cattle raids and banditry attacks.

“We have not encountered any act of lawlessness in this region for a long time as a result of the peace accord,” said Mr Mark Ajon Lokwawi, the Lokiriama assistant chief.

A clause in the peace pact, he said, empowers  local administrators to punish lawbreakers.

IMPROVE TRADE

“Elders play a crucial role in the enforcement of communal laws. They are highly respected in solving disputes and promoting peaceful coexistence among pastoralists in the two countries,” Mr Lokwawi said.

The monument is a stopover for traders travelling between  Moroto in Uganda and Loima in Kenya. 

The accord got a boost after Mr Kenyatta and Mr Museveni signed an MoU to enhance peace and stability in the region. The agreement, signed at Mt Moroto early this month, seeks to promote sustainable cross border peace, trade and development.

It entails building of a road from Lodwar Town through Lokiriama to Moroto  to improve trade.

The neighbouring countries of South Sudan and Ethiopia have also embraced the Lokiriama peace accord to resolve armed conflict and cattle raids.

STOLEN ANIMALS

They have been holding peace meetings to resolve disputes over grazing fields and watering points. Community elders are instrumental in recovering stolen animals.

Leaders from Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Samburu and Laikipia counties have also adopted the peace accord to promote coexistence the among local communities.

However, more than 200 lives have been lost and thousands of families displaced in the last one year due cattle raids and bandit attacks in parts of the North Rift region.

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