By Ezra Kigondu, Samburu Coordinator
Alternatives to Violence Project (Kenya) – Trust
Morans at the listening session in Samburu.
Update: My January 1, 2016 Report from Kenya, Game Changer in the War against Terror, (see davidzarembka.com/2016/11/16/368-game-changer-in-the-war-against-terror-january-1-2016/), described how Muslims protected Christians in an attack by Al-Shabaab on a bus near the Kenya/Somali border. Some German film students have made this story into a 22 minute movie, Watu Wote – All of Us. It has been nominated for an Oscar for short film, live action. You can see the trailer here: www.google.com/search?q=watu+wote+trailer&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b. Hope they win.
As part of the peacemaking work in Samburu County by Alternative to Violence Project (Kenya)–Trust (AVP-Trust) with support from the American Friends Service Committee-Kenya (see davidzarembka.com/2017/11/23/475-blossoming-peace-in-samburu-november-24-2017/), a listening session was held with morans (warriors), young men who are responsible for the large herds of cows often reaching more than a thousand head as they search large areas for pasture and water to feed the cattle. As the morans said this was the first time that anyone had listened to their side of the story.
Terrain of Samburu
The listening session was done in Wamba subcounty of Samburu County. In Samburu during the Turning the Tide program we trained the chairman of the morans in the area who played a key role in mobilizing the morans for this listening session. Since they are reluctant to appear in public, it took a lot of effort to obtain their trust. Although this was assured during mobilization, still for the session they came in small groups to make sure they were meeting the right people. We conducted a group listening session with a resource person helping in translating. Among the key guiding questions were:
- How are we feeling being community warriors?
- What makes moranism enjoyable?
- What are the challenges encountered during moranism?
- What kind of relationship do we have with community, government, police, and other moran groups?
- Do we get any support from the government?
- What is the way forward on developing peaceful coexistence?
The morans expressed their feelings freely. They said that this is the first meeting ever with people from outside their cultural back ground; for this they are very happy to be so recognized. But still some registered fears because any time they appear in public, people are suspicious of them so they wondered if this was a plot to arrest them. To break the ice and create more trust, we assured them that we were there just to give them a listening ear.
They commented: “As many people condemn moranism we feel as a community that we have some positive sides of this culture. Cattle that need protection are a source of wealth for the community. They need to be grazed and this is our responsibility. We also protect the entire community against any perceived threats of nature.”
The already beaded young girls
Negative aspects of moranism include but not limited to:
- Forced marriage
- Engaging young ladies for marriage in the culture, known as beading (giving the prospective bride beads to indicate being betrothed)
- Raiding other communities’ animals
What has really contributed to morans being feared are the community elites who have brain washed them with negative ideologies of raiding and accumulating wealth together with marrying as many wives as possible to prove that they are really men. The elders also emphasize to the morans historical injustices done to the community and the need for revenge. Whenever the morans go to war, they are really praised for that courageous act.
“Initially, it was culturally right to fight with spears, bows and arrows but, since the proliferation of guns in the community, we have realized that many of us have died. Guns have completely changed our culture and now it seems like we are fighting the government which was not the case before. We have tried to surrender the guns but the other communities are not willing to surrender their guns, hence we feel threatened and that makes us not to surrender them.
“We value animals very much and any interference with the animals whatsoever will lead to fighting. This attachment to animals has caused us not to value education. And so the few who went to school take advantage of this attachment by encouraging us to raid as many animals as we can.
“What needs to be done to avoid such wrangles?
- Involve us in security meetings
- Be friendly to morans
- Have regular inter moran dialogues and moran/police dialogues”
Ezra with the jovial morans after the listening session.
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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region. He is an analyst on eastern Africa issues for TVC News in Lagos, Nigeria.
Transforming Community for Social Change (TCSC)
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Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/