The Tragedy of Violence in North Eastern Kenya: Logistics and Keeping Peace

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September 8, 2014

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Photo credit: Azeroth93 / Deviant Art

Photo credit: Azeroth93 / Deviant Art

Few days back a close friend posted some irritating pictures of a mother massacred while protecting her young kid in the recent inter-clan fight in Mandera county. When I requested him to pull down such picture via inbox he lamented more pictures worse than that are posted from Gaza.

Coverage of Kenya’s North Eastern is often dominated by reports of food insecurity, developmental retardation and worst of all, clashes. With high incidence of inter-clan clashes, suspected terrorist attacks, raids on police stations and more, the region has sadly become synonymous with conflict. What art does logistics play in this sad state of affairs?

One of the oft quoted reasons for the escalation of clashes in the North Eastern province has been the limited presence of proper law enforcement forces. It has been argued that were the region more easily accessible or developed, a stronger law enforcement presence could be established to deter violence before it began and keep it under control in the current situation. This lack of development can be linked to a lack of logistics support structures and systems: with poor road networks and limited transportation means to reach the more remote regions, citizens may find themselves enduring a lengthy wait for assistance in maintaining peace in the region, to the detriment of the community.

Away from the Kenyan norm of pointing fingers at state institutions, clashes in the North Eastern region have frequently been attributed to a struggle for control over scarce resources in the area. Theft of livestock in particular has remained a key spark for conflict in an area that relies heavily on animal rearing as an economic activity. This lack of resources ties in to larger national issues of resource distribution, but is compounded by a shoddy logistics framework. A missing or poorly developed road network discourages potential investors as well as the growth of local talents: with transportation barriers, for example, it will be expensive and cumbersome to bring in irrigation equipment to kickstart an agricultural effort, and equally difficult to get produce from such a hypothetical farm to market regions.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

This clash over limited resources is also exacerbated by the general poverty prevalent in the area. Logistics comes into play as far as factors encouraging poverty in the region are concerned. Low literacy levels can again be attributed to a lack of logistics support structures which discourage the formation of schools. An example of this would be the nomadic peoples in the region: some ‘moving’ schools have been instituted in the region, but are unable to properly serve the population due to poor logistics planning on both the part of the school, and nomads: harmonious planning would have ensure that courses for both parties collided often enough for students to access facilities as needed. This lack of formal training or education also leads to high unemployment levels, leaving disenfranchised youth idle and prime targets for recruitment into a life of crime, or as militia in escalating violence in the region.

Another purported source of clashes and violent tensions in the north Eastern region is said to be grudges imported from neighboring Ethiopia. It has been alleged that some attacks in the North Eastern region have been aimed at parties fleeing violent disagreements originating in Ethiopia, as well as weapons smuggled over the border being used to fuel clashes. Logistics becomes a consideration in this case as far as border control is concerned: with proper facilities in place to screen new entrants into the country, and ensure that weapons do not cross into Kenyan territory.

While the history of violence in the North Eastern region of Kenya is complex and far reaching, the role of logistics (or lack thereof) cannot be ignored. Can the solution to this unfortunate issue be found in logistics as well?


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