Minority Rights Group (MRG) networks for peace in Northern Kenya

Categories: Jo Cox Memorial Fund, Learning, Women
16 June 2021


With a Jo Cox Memorial Grant, Minority Rights Group (MRG) is working with grassroots organisations in East Africa to help develop early warning conflict tracking systems that can help to break patterns of violence.

For example, in Northern Kenya, violence in the area has hindered development, consumed wealth, and worryingly, perpetrators have begun to target young people, including a recent killing of four students – two studying at university and two still in high school – in what was viewed as a revenge attack for previous killings.

Marsabit County is home to 13 ethnic groups, namely Borana, Gabra, Rendille, Samburu, El-molo, Daseenach, Burji, Garee, Turkana, Sakuye, Somalis, Konso and Waata (Waayu ). The conflict in Marsabit is often over natural resources and the politics which pits the four large ethnic groups of Borana, Gabra, Rendille and Burji against each other.

To combat such violent trends, MRG, along with Isiolo Gender Watch, has established a ‘network for peace’ project in the area. The success of this work, however, is contingent on the engagement of key individuals in the community.

For example, Rose Ngoilel Orguba, a 43-year-old mother of five, runs a small community-based organisation in a village 90kms from the town of Marsabit in Laisamis sub-county. This remote and underdeveloped sub-county is home to the Rendille community – which Rose belongs to – and they have been in conflict with the Borana and Gabra communities for several years over livestock and grazing space, an issue exacerbated by drought in the region. The conflict has worsened since 2013.

Rose has first-hand experience of this conflict as her family herd of 400 goats was raided in 2001 and her uncle was shot dead two years later during such raids. Rose’s predicament is a microcosm of larger pastoralists’ conflicts and she is determined that all efforts must be geared towards ending such violence. As she says, ‘We are losing the future to violence, we are losing our children, spouses and brothers’. Rose is a Peace Ambassador within the network.

With appropriate peace-building training by Minority Rights Group (MRG) and Isiolo Gender Watch, covering conflict types, causes, trends, actors and management received, Rose says she has gained new insights about her context and that she feels empowered to make her voice heard for pastoralists’ families not just in the country, but also in the region.

With an economic downturn due to COVID-19 and Kenyan elections coming up in 2022, there is an increased need for community coordination and preventative measures to ensure violence is not sparked. Networks like those run by MRG play a vital role in bringing together members of different communities, creating dialogue, and understanding, and breaking down prejudice. Furthermore, they help prevent future violence by closely monitoring conflict situations, political leaders’ moves and alerting state agencies, particularly the police, of any suspicious information relayed by peace ambassadors.

Note: Waayu and Waata is used interchangeably. They are traditionally hunter and gatherers. The Waata and its political leaders have objected to use of the word Waata which is taken as derogatory.

MRG’s Jo Cox Memorial Grant funded project is entitled: Networks for Peace: preventing and resolving conflicts through early warning mechanisms in Africa.

To learn more about the work of MRG, visit the organisation’s website.

Photo credit: Minority Rights Group (MRG) and Rose, Peace Ambassador

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About the Jo Cox Foundation

The Jo Cox Foundation was established in 2016 by the friends and family of the late Jo Cox MP. Find out more about the work of The Jo Cox Foundation on the Foundation’s website.