Mt Elgon is one of the most polarized regions in the country especially when it comes to land clashes. The most recent and familiar being the 2006 clashes in the region which saw the leader of SLD (Sabaot Land Defense Force) killed by the army deployed in the area.
The clashes which last a while saw families displaced, people killed, men and women lose their spouses and children lose their parents. The tension in the region was huge; no one knew who to trust as their neighbors turned against them.
The healing process has been slow but sure. Families are slowly returning to their homes and six years later the wounds though still fresh, are healing. NGOs have taken their peace initiatives to the heart of Mt. Elgon and one such organization is Chanuka.
Chanuka is an NGO based in Trans Nzoia, its core mandate to enlighten the youth to stand up against injustices in their communities.
They have programs in the larger Trans Nzoia but felt the need to spread their mandate to Mt. Elgon as most of their conflicts are with the Bukusus.
The current peace program in Mt. Elgon really centers on bringing the communities together especially the sub clans in the area
According to Chanuka Programme Coordinator Anderson Mwenesi, their projects mainly involve young people to impact on the community. But because the Sabaots in Mt. Elgon cultural beliefs do not really allow them to believe in the youth they had to involve the Oloibons (Village Elders)
“The Oloibons have been really helpful as they tell us where the root of the conflict is and how to deal with the issue. They help us with research especially with their beliefs and practices.” added Mwenesi.
The major sources of conflict can be attributed to the lack of adequate information on what really going on. The community is completely shut out from the rest of the world and no one really has the right information. Chanuka helps with this challenge by setting up focus groups that
The program is for young people and its main aim is to foster peace.
Due to the cultural practices the program had to involve the Oloibons (Elders).
The project is a platform for the community to express themselves, and includes focus groups that allow for a platform to tap into resources.
The sources of conflict identified in the region include:
The focus groups create a platform for critical examination of local leadership, which in turn helps in ending the conflict which is mainly clan based.
Most of the land they were fighting over was considered to be natural, as the Sabaot people believe so much in their culture, so much. Some of these practices include;
The first cleansing ceremony was conducted in Kopsiro Division; it was attended by the area MP, the District Commissioner Salat, the NSIS head among other leaders and members of the Provincial Administration.
The second cleansing ceremony which has a symbolic meaning will be conducted on the 20th of July.
According to the Laibons the first war between the Sabaot and the Bukusu was fought almost 100 years ago and to hold the truce the two communities agreed to bury the first men killed from both communities in one grave. The Sabaot man was buried at the top with a spear joining them. The second cleansing ceremony will see the two men separated and each of them buried with their families.
Other projects by the NGO include a school based project known as ‘Lest We Forget’ Campaign.
These are peace clubs started in the schools to promote peace among school going children. Some patrons are teachers trained in supporting the children’s needs.
They have plans of starting Village Parliaments which target civic education to engage communication structure in dialogue.
Those expected to participate in these debates include the Provincial Administration, Security and the community.
The best thing to come out of the peace programs is the current calm and trust that has returned to the villages.
The program which started in April 2010 has helped reduce the tension and the suspicion that existed largely among the locals.
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