Politicians in Uganda and South Sudan have warned that the free movement of pastoralists and their livestock may not be possible if Kenya does not disarm the Turkana.
The InterGovernmental Authority on Development is awaiting approval from members for a protocol on transhumance (the seasonal movement of herders and their livestock in search of water and pasture).
Dr Adan Bika, Head of Dryland Development and Climate Change Adaptation at Igad, said the plan is to have a protocol signed by early 2019.
Igad officials say they have sought and got approvals from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Uganda.
Dr Bika said that by allowing pastoralists to move in search of pasture, East African countries will enable these communities, which are among the poorest in the region, to avoid loss of livestock during periods of prolonged drought.
He said that such free movement would make pastoralists climate change-resilient, reducing the possibility of hunger and livestock losses. The communities will also better contribute to the prosperity of their countries.
But Samson Lokeris, Dodoth East Member of Parliament in Uganda, said that the only way that the protocol will gain acceptance is if Kenya disarms its pastoralists.
“Igad have told us they will deal with the issue of cattle rustlers. But for this protocol to go through, they have to deal with the outstanding matter of disarming the people in Kenya,” he said.
Mr Lokeris, who made these remarks on behalf of Uganda’s Foreign Affairs Minister at the national policy and legal experts meeting on the Igad Protocol on Transhumance, said that the Kenya government’s approach of disarming pastoralist communities has been to turn former warriors into members of the Kenya Police Reserve (KPR) so that they can carry guns legally.
“Kenya’s approach is to tell warriors that if they give up their guns, they are registered as members of the KPR. The KPR is not trained by the Kenya Police, so they have been using the licensed guns to carry out raids in Uganda,” he said.
While Uganda has Local Defence Units who are trained by the police to defend pastoralists and their livestock, Mr Lokeris says the KPR does not work in the same way.
Similar sentiments have previously been raised by Dr Martin Elia Lomuro, South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, who said that one of the things his country needs resolved are raids carried out by Turkana pastoralists.
He added that before South Sudan can agree to the transhumance protocol, the Turkana culture of cattle rustling has to be dealt with.
South Sudan’s pastoralists steal livestock too, and still have guns, but, according to Mr Lokeris, they are not as harmful as the Turkana.
The South Sudanese have also been accused of similar crimes, but they do not target the Karimojong, whom Mr Lokeris represents in parliament.
Communities have not been invited to be part of the negotiations on the protocol, but Dr Bika says that Igad is addressing the issue of cattle rustling. One of the clauses proposes measures to register pastoralists moving their livestock from one country to another.
“The protocol enhances the security of pastoralists and their host communities. A livestock owner will be required to register and get a certificate that lists his number of herders and animals,” Dr Bika said.
When pasture is depleted and herders resolve to drive their livestock into a neighbouring country, some effort will be needed to make sure there is no change in the numbers. And if there is a change, an explanation will be sought from the livestock owners.
Japheth Kasimbu, a transhumance expert at Igad, said that the protocol is not introducing anything new in the region.
He said that the only Igad states that do not allow free movement people and property are Kenya and Somalia, whose common border is sometimes closed. Another is the Eritrea-Ethiopia border.
Mr Kasimbu said that Igad will help member countries to formalise transhumance.