Kenya and Ethiopian are seeking to dissuade residents from engaging in inter-clan violence and engage in co-operation.
Meeting in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa last week for a two-day cross-border regional conference, authorities from both countries said violence along the border posed dangers to joint infrastructure projects planned under the Lamu Port South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset).
In 2015, the two countries signed Support for Effective Co-operation and Co-ordination of Cross-border Initiatives in southwest Ethiopia-northwest Kenya, Marsabit-Borana and Dawa, and Kenya-Somalia-Ethiopia to enhance stability in the region.
The $10 million programme funded by the European Union and the UN Development Programme, will address “the drivers of conflict and instability, irregular migration and displacement in the cross-border areas of the Horn of Africa through improved cross-border co-operation and co-ordination.”
However, the Gabra, Garre, Borana and Burji communities, who straddle Moyale region on both sides of the border, have continued to engage in occasional but deadly fight.
The officials admitted that the violence could derail the countries’ recent bilateral arrangements to boost trade.
“This region which has even great potential is permanently at a crossroads. We have faced and continue to face conflicts and humanitarian crises. It remains both fragile and volatile,” said Mohamud Mohamed Ali, the governor of Marsabit County in Kenya where Moyale is situated.
“We remain as convinced as we were in 2015, when the cross-border agreement was signed, that an environment of peace in the Kenyan-Ethiopia border could offer to the region multifaceted opportunities for faster economic growth, poverty alleviation, employment creation, infrastructure development, energy cooperation and regional connectivity.”
The programme’s target is to bring lasting peace and turn communities from warring factions to contributors to the economy. But there has been at least one spell of violence each year since 2015.
Last year, Marsabit County had to grapple with thousands of Ethiopians fleeing ethnic violence across the border.
Authorities said the fighting was along ethnic lines, and cited the proliferation of small arms as the fuel of the violence.
Traditionally, ethnic violence in the area was mainly around raids for animals in order to pay dowry or ensure the victims fled from the pasture land.
Today, notes Ethiopian academic Tesfaye Molla, attacks and raids are carried out to increase one’s own wealth or for commercial purposes.
Political reforms in Ethiopia and Kenya such as creation of counties and additional constituencies fuelled the violence, he argues.