Turkana County residents along the border of Kenya and Uganda on Sunday converged at Urum village to commemorate a year since Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Yoweri Museveni committed to ending the cross-border conflict through joint development programmes.
Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, who was a key signatory during the pact that was signed last September at Moroto in Uganda to develop the marginalised Turkana-Pokot-Karamoja region, commissioned a Sh16.5million Urum water reticulation peace dividend project.
Mr. Wamalwa said that insufficient pasture and water have been the root cause of cross-border conflicts. He said the water project, which is jointly funded by the Ministry of Devolution, Turkana County government, and UNDP, is among the workable solutions.
“We want communities living along the border to start benefiting from peace dividends with priority being sufficient water for both livestock and people. There is no need for Kenyan pastoralists to migrate to Uganda and yet we have the capacity to build mega-dams like Kobebe dam in Uganda,” Wamalwa said.
He said that the national government will spend Sh250million to construct a strategic and multipurpose dam at Namoni-ang’ikaala in Loima Sub County to conclusively solve water shortage and end the reliance on Turkana pastoralists on similar dams in Uganda.
Pastoralists from Marsabit and West Pokot Counties will also benefit from similar dams as a solution to resource-based conflicts.
Mr. Wamalwa said his ministry will engage technical experts from the Ministry of Water to ensure they identify suitable sites for sustainable water projects.
Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said that commissioning of the water project is the beginning of the MoU’s fruits, besides demonstrating the productive partnership between governments to meet communities’ needs.
“Pastoralists had identified water shortage as their biggest problem and we are happy that President Kenyatta is committed to tackling the problem by investing in dams. We also need a border school to accommodate children from all these communities to promote integration.” Mr. Nanok said.
He said that his administration has also been participating in mass livestock treatment and vaccination exercises targeting Kenyan and Ugandan pastoralists who live along the marginalized Turkana-Pokot and Karamoja corridor.
UNDP Representative Asfaw Kumssa said the UN has committed about Sh100million to the programme, adding that peacebuilding is an elusive concept that requires multi-dimensional intervention.
“UNDP will support local peace committees to boost their capacities of promoting peaceful coexistence. Input from the committees is critical in eradicating causes of cultural practices such as deadly cattle rustling activities that have recently been commercialized,” Dr. Kumssa said.
Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes said sustainable peace and adequate water supply along the corridor will unlock mining as the best alternative to Turkana, Pokot, and Karamoja pastoralists.
“The expansive border has unexploited sites of valuable minerals such as gold and ruby. Opening up the once marginalized region will translate into more revenue and jobs.” Mr. Munyes said.
West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio said that communities in the area are enjoying peace because more parents are now allowing their children to go to school.
“More players are supporting peacebuilding processes. Politicians should not simplify peace for their selfish interests,” Mr. Poghisio said.
Loima MP Jeremiah Lomorukai advocated for more projects such as irrigation and well-equipped hospitals to facilitate permanent settlements of pastoralists.
At the same time, he warned contractors against shoddy water projects in remote areas.