Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa on Thursday graced the opening ceremony of the Turkana tourism and cultural festival with a calls to successive devolved governments to continue celebrating the festival.
Wamalwa credited the festival for strengthening bilateral ties and peaceful coexistence between communities in Uganda and Kenya that facilitated the sealing of the infamous peace treaty signed in Moroto, Uganda in 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni witnessed the signing of an MOU in 2019 in Uganda that provided for development of water projects and road infrastructure to address insecurity caused by conflict over water and pasture.
Wamalwa said the two presidents’ meeting in Moroto was followed by another meeting at Kobebe Uganda where President Kenyatta directed Wamalwa who was then Devolution Cabinet Secretary to construct three mega-dams in Kenya to address water related conflicts.
He said the three dams located in West Pokot, Marsabit and another at Urum, Turkana were part of the fruits of Tobong’lore. Two dams except one at Urum are complete.
Wamalwa urged politicians not to politicize the international event, which he said has helped spur development in the region and promote peace.
“Peace building must continue. Our communities share culture. The celebrations are important and though part of governor Nanok’s legacy, successive governments should continue to celebrate the festival,” Wamalwa said.
At the same time, Wamalwa said the government is mulling the establishment of a military base in Lodwar to boost security in the region.
He said the military base will not only boost security in the region but also provide an opportunity for the economic development of the county.
“I am glad that public participation is ongoing at the County Assembly over the military base in Lodwar. It will create opportunity for investments especially for the livestock industry,” said Wamalwa.
He added that the military base will open up the county for investments and uplift the livelihood of the local residents.
Governor Josphat Nanok said the annual cultural event had helped pacify the international borders.
“The 2018 Tobong’lore meeting birthed the memorandum of understanding between Kenya and Uganda that pacified the international borders,” said Nanok.
Nanok said the festival was critical during drought situation because it is during such times when traditional marriages happen. He added that the festival provides an opportunity for delegations from the neighboring countries to address insecurity cases.
Nanok said that on Friday the Kenya and Uganda delegations will be meeting to discuss the grazing along the borders and highlighted the need to address livestock diseases.
“We shall also have a side meeting with Ethiopia to help cement the peace between the two countries,” said Nanok.
Ugandan Minister for Karamoja Affairs Mary Kitutu underscored the importance of the festival saying it provides an opportunity for the two countries to celebrate their shared cultures.
In a speech read on her behalf by Ugandan delegation leader Francis Lokoli, Kitutu said Uganda will continue to mobilize resources for peaceful coexistence of the two countries.
She however called on the Kenyan government to ensure that civilians are disarmed to promote peace.
“Guns in the hands of civilians are the most dangerous weapons,” she said.
Speaker of Turkana County Assembly Erastus Lokaale said the county missed to celebrate the fete for the last two years due to Covid-19 saying the event provides an opportunity for the community to showcase its pride.
“We cannot be a community that is only identified by the problems that afflict us, we must celebrate our culture,” he said adding that the event will be a legacy project for Governor Nanok.
Turkana Central Deputy County Commissioner David Juma urged the youth to emulate the elders and preserve their culture.
The meeting had been met by stiff opposition from a section of residents who argued that it was not a priority at a time of drought.
Others present were MCAS from Samburu, Isiolo, Laikipia, Baringo and Nakuru.
By Peter Gitonga