A group of women drawn from the warring Pokot, Turkana, and Marakwet communities, has resolved to take the peace message to bandits, who have been unleashing terror in the Kerio Valley.
The women operating under the Pokot, Marakwet, and Turkana (POTUMA) women leaders’ forum banner, say they are committed to venturing in the dreaded valley to meet with the armed bandits, to plead with them to put down their weapons and embrace peace and end the senseless killings.
“We are afraid as women that in the near future, there will be no need for early childhood schools in the Kerio Valley, because there will be no children as our men and sons are being murdered every day, due to cattle rustling,” said the women during a two-day forum in Eldoret.
“As mothers, we will go up to where the warriors, majority of whom are youths, are holed up and implore them to stop the killings. It is unfortunate that relatives are killing each other considering that the Pokot intermarry with the Marakwet, the Marakwet intermarry with the Turkana and the Turkana intermarry with the Pokot,” said Cabinet Administrative Secretary, (CAS), and State Department for Gender, Dr. Lina Jebii Kilimo.
She observed that although various peace meetings have been held in an effort to restore peaceful coexistence in the Kerio Valley, not much has been achieved since those targeted were not those involved in the fighting.
“Peace meetings and barazas are normally attended by leaders and elders, but the youths who are the real antagonists in these conflicts never show up, hence nothing much is achieved,” Jebii said.
She added that “as women who bear the brunt of the conflict, we have said enough is enough, we are taking the message of peace to the warriors in the battlefield.”
Jebii said many children have been orphaned and women widowed in the cattle-rustling wars and added, “As women, today we are saying it’s enough, we might miss a whole generation and may be wiped out because of lack of peace in the region.”
The women’s forum comes on the backdrop of six deaths being reported within one week in the Kerio Valley due to banditry.
Three more residents were shot dead on Tuesday by suspected Pokot bandits in Arror and Kabetwa areas.
“It is sad we are burying our kin killed by bandits in the volatile Kerio Valley almost on a daily basis”, said Kilimo.
She said the two-day forum which is aimed at establishing and promoting peace among the Pokot, Marakwet, and Turkana communities will strategize on training the women leaders in negotiation skills to equip them on how to approach and negotiate with the warring youths on the need for peace and stability.
POTUMA Chairperson, Roselyn Lokorgeleng’, stated that they are saddened by the daily killings happening among Pokot, Marakwet, and Turkana.
Doreen Lomeri, a Turkana from Kapedo who is married among the Pokot in Chemolingot says, “as a woman, I am deeply hurting for our young men, our children from Pokot and Turkana are killing each other, every day we wake-up to different deaths either of a family member or a neighbor, we are pleading with our children to stop fighting and embrace peace and unity”.
She suggested that the government should construct a school at the border of Pokot and Turkana, as a way of fostering peace among the two communities, saying this will help the young children to learn how to co-exist among each other with love.
Another member, Rohina Pyatich, a Pokot married in Marakwet stated that she has not seen her Pokot family in a long time since she cannot dare travel through the dangerous valley.
“The markets have been closed down and if my loved one is sick or even dying of hunger, there is no way I can be of any help, am stuck here in Marakwet, I cannot travel for fear of not knowing what awaits me on the road along the valley,” Pyatich explained.
Africa Inland Church Bishop, David Kipsoi, from Elgeyo Marakwet, called on all women to continuously keep their husbands in check, by discouraging them from engaging in the conflict but instead promoting peace among the communities.
By Chemutai Korir and Kiptanui Cherono