Neither Ethiopian nor Kenyan, just Gabra, Garre or Borana

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By Muchemi Wachira

Posted  Monday, August 31   2009 at  00:00

HAVING SERVED AS A chief in Ethiopia, Huka Gompe finds himself comfortably sitting among the elders and leaders of the Gabra community in Kenya.

He is very much at ease identifying himself as a Kenyan despite having spent much of his life in Ethiopia where he served as a chief until 1991 when the Mengistu Haile Mariam regime was ousted.

He insists he has a right to Kenyan citizenship.

“Here we don’t know about boundaries. I was born in Ethiopia but since 1963, I have been herding my livestock in both Kenya and Ethiopia. Even when I was a chief, I would cross over into Kenya to look for pasture when drought ravaged Ethiopia,” the 70-year-old Gompe told The EastAfrican at his home in the border town of Dukana. Dukana is a location in the greater Marsabit area.

“I have several relatives in Kenya who also don’t know whether they are Kenyan or Ethiopian,” he adds.

The issue of citizenship baffled many people living in the north of the country where Kenya shares a border with Ethiopia. Most are nomads from the Borana, Gabra or Garre communities, which are found on both sides of the border.

Moreover, the border is porous. It was only recently when the Borana-Gabra conflict intensified, that the people in the region became aware of the border between the two countries.

The two communities, which speak the same language, have been embroiled in ceaseless conflict caused by sharing of the scarce resources in the northern Kenyan region.

The climax came in June 2005 when raiders believed to be Boranas from Ethiopia crossed into Kenya and attacked the Turbi trading centre in the newly created Chalbi district of greater Marsabit.

They killed more than 90 people during the attack, now referred to as the Turbi Massacre.

In April 2006, the Gabras found themselves unwelcome in Gorai location of southern Ethiopia after the death of their leader and former North Horr MP, the late Dr Boyana Godana.

THE LATE DR GODANA DIED in a plane crash in Marsabit with four other parliamentarians — former assistant minister for state Mirugi Kariuki, Abdi Tari Sasura (Saku), Titus Ngoyoni (Laisamis) and Dr Guracha Galgallo (Moyale).

They were all heading to Marsabit for a peace meeting.

BOTH SASURA AND GALGALLO were from the Borana community while Ngoyoni was a Rendille. By then, Boranas and Rendilles had combined forces against Gabras.

“The Boranas started becoming hostile to us since the Turbi Massacre, but they eventually pushed us out of Ethiopia in April 2006 after the death of Dr Godana,” Mr Gompe recalls.

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