How conflict disrupts community development

Above, standing) Monica Atieno, a mother of six, who was forced out of her home in Kopere because of attacks from hostile neighbours. The conflict happened on the border where the Luo and Nandi live.

Monica Atieno, a Luo, is a mother of six children. Attackers from the neighbouring Nandi tribe forced her to leave her home in Kopere and camp at Achego AIC church.

As a result of the attacks, her family is now scattered; she is staying at the church compound with four of her children, one of the sons is looking after their cattle in a place called Chemelil, while the husband remained behind at Kopere to help keep off the raiders.

Due to insecurity, the movement of people is curtailed and normal human activities cannot be conducted. The community members from the warring tribes cannot transact their businesses freely due the animosity arising from the conflicts. They cannot sell their products like fish and milk, among others due to fear of retaliatory attacks.

What started off as a fight between members of two neighbouring communities over cattle rustling, ended up disrupting life for hundreds of families: Children cannot go to school; women cannot tend to their farms while the men cannot engage in meaningful work.

It also added numbers to the phenomenon of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kenya. The fighting on the Kisumu / Nandi border, in western Kenya, is said to have left four people dead.

But not only that, organizations that work in the area have had to suspend their activities. The people they support face a bleak future, unless peace prevails in the area.

One such organization is Africa Inland Child and Community Agency for Development (AICCAD), a faith-based organization that has been working in the area for the last couple of years, giving hope to vulnerable members of the society.

Yet still, AICCAD, the development arm of the AIC in Kenya, came to the rescue of the IDPs, by providing foodstuff and other basic necessities.

When the displaced people first arrived, they went to Achego Children’s Home, run by AICCAD. Here, the management quickly responded by opening their doors and welcomed them. The home received the IDPs and used all the food in the store to respond to the situation before receiving any help from well-wishers.

AICCAD, led by its National Director, Rev. Matthew Okeyo and other staff members, distributed cooking oil, sugar, rice, blankets, water buckets and soap to the IDPs camped at Achego AIC church and Songhor post office compound.

Speaking to the displaced people, Rev. Okeyo told them that their only hope and security was found in God. He urged not to seek to revenge against those who hurt them.

Meanwhile, the local administration has asked the IDPs to go back home but the IDPs lament that there is no security for them even if they go back home. The administration says 400 security officers have been deployed in the area but the IDPs complain that the security officers are taking sides in the dispute.

According to Mark Opuk, a volunteer helping to collect statistics at Achego AIC Church where most of the IDPs were camping, a total of 1005 people went through the church compound from the first day of the clashes.

(Above) Some of the displaced women and children inside Achego AIC Church, in Western Kenya.

During the day, some of the IDPs go back to their homes to check on their farms and houses, but go back to the camp in the evening, where they are assured of security and food.

When the attacks happened a week earlier and IDPs flocked in the church compound in thousands, schools nearby were forced to close to accommodate them. According to the local Pastor Geoffrey Kamire, some of the IDPs were forced to spend the night in toilets within the church compound, since there was not enough room for all of them.

When the raiders came, many families were scattered and they only came to meet later in the church compound. Many of them left their houses only with nothing other than the clothes they were wearing.

The bishop for AIC Nyanza region Rev. Phillip Osanya asked the government not to force the IDPs to go back home, until such a time that they will be ready to go voluntarily.

“People (IDPs) should not be forced to go back to their homes if they feel unsafe,” he said while comforting the IDPs.

He said that the church, political and administration officials will hold meetings to help find a lasting solution to the perennial insecurity problem.

Monica says that she had never been affected by such an incident before. She says there have been attacks previously, the first one having happened in 1992. Another attack happened in 2013, but she says the current one has been far more devastating.

Villagers here claim that the attackers from the Nandi side have a camp nearby where they normally meet and plan their attacks. They attack during the night when their Luo neighbours are sleeping.

When we visited Achego AIC Church, we found desperate women (some very old) and children, some lying down on the floor, either sick or hungry, or just distressed.

Nearby, medical personnel from the county government were providing medication to the displaced, to help deal with cases of malaria and to combat any other disease that may break out.

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