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Bridging the divide across borders: Peace Dialogue in Elwak

Bridging the divide across borders: Peace Dialogue in Elwak

Published: August 26, 2010
Group of men sit in dislogue with one another.

Community dialogue is held in the bordering El-Wak towns on the Somali and Kenya sides.

Photo: AFSC

Scarcity of grazing land has led to conflicts among pastoralist communities living along both sides of the Kenya and Somalia border. In Elwak, Somalia livestock is the main source of livelihood for the residents and the same is true for neighboring communities living on the other side of the border in Kenya.  Unfortunately with limited space, violent conflict led to preventable deaths.

AFSC and local organizations believe peaceful coexistence is possible through dialogue. From April to June 2010 communities came together to talk under the project: “Enhancing co-existence through improvement of intercommunity dialogue in Elwak”. The goal of the project was to bring together the different stakeholders to discuss on peaceful resolution of problems.

In this project six peace dialogue events took place and involved opinion, religious and community leaders. 

The first dialogue event, attracted 120 participants from both Elwak of Kenya and Elwak of Somalia, who discussed the issues, examined their differences and agreed to move forward together to maintain peace and tranquility in the region.  Subsequent forums engaging various leaders generated commitments to living in harmony among neighbors of Damassa, Elwak, Borehole and Boru Birdeso.

The second dialogue brought together all the stakeholders including women and ended with agreements on how to share resources.  During this event one woman was quoted, with nods of approval from other participants, saying the following powerful words:

There are two major Somali ethnic groups living in Elwak Somalia namely Garreh and Marehan. From today we shall delete tribalism from our minds and jointly work towards achieving the common objective and goal of strengthening peace among ourselves. We can’t achieve development without peace.”

The program has bridged the divide and enabled an ease of movement and interaction among the cross border communities. The resources are being shared without resorting to violence. Moreover, a committee made of clan and religious elders was set up to resolve any disputes in the future. Instead of being divided across borders, communities are reaching out to each other.

The project is supported by AFSC’s Somalia Peace Program.