FAC Working Paper 22

The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya

Published on 1 June 2011

This working paper is a contribution to understandings of peace-building among pastoralists. From a pastoralist perspective, it throws light on the achievement of peace in a five-year effort led by leaders of the Borana and Gabra peoples of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The instigators of the research, elders of Gabra and Borana, set the frame of the inquiry and its analysis, assisted by researchers from the Institute of Development Studies and Pastoralists Consultants International.

Their study reveals four aspects of peace management among pastoralists inthe Kenya-Ethiopia borderlands: moral consensus, information exchange, law and surveillance. It shows how these principles are understood, debated and acted upon by particular segments of society and with varying degrees of success in rural and urban areas and in different districts. To explain to an external audience some of the background, we draw on the work of Marco Bassi on vernacular procedures of consensus, and his observations on how moral and political principles entwine within East African pastoralist societies.

The study, by focusing on local people’s expressions to a group of local elders, necessarily plays down the roles of those that people understood less, saw less of, underestimated, or decided to remain silent about. Thus the story risks the impression that the indigenous citizens involved in this case manage peace, security, crime and violence with a minimum of outside help, which would not be entirely true. We hope the reader will tolerate this bias in order to understand the pivotal role of citizens in building peace.

Cite this publication

Scott-Villers, P. et al. (2011) The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya, FAC Working Paper 22, Brighton: Future Agricultures Consortium