Being born and bred mostly in Nairobi, pastoral communities and conflicts were something I occasionally saw on television after a raid or two left families crying or a special feature was done about the how hard drought and famine is hitting most of the pastoralists.
These were not areas I would ever imagine myself stepping foot. Furthermore, I had a common notion that these pastoral communities were located somewhere very hot and dry with no green vegetation and lots of starving cattle. I was very wrong.
Children Peace Initiative Kenya held its 20th peace camp event in Baringo County at Kiserian Primary school from May 25th to May 29th. The selection of students who participated comprised of a total of 118 students, all in grade 6, but from four different schools; Chepkalacha Primary, Nosukuro Primary, Lomuge Primary and Kiserian Primary. Among these three schools, two distinct communities were represented with Chepkalacha and Lomuge students being from Pokot Community and Nosukuro and Kiserian students being from the Ilchamus Community.
Due to the divide that has been brought forth between the Ilchamus and Pokot communities as a result of pastoral conflicts, the children from Lomuge Primary School and Chepkalacha Primary School had never gotten the chance to interact and get to know children from Kiseerian Primary School and Noosukuro Primary School.
The little they knew, was based on myths and hearsay from a variety of sources. For most of them, this was the first time they were seeing children from a community other than theirs. The peace camp made all this possible. For four consecutive days with children from the selected schools representing both communities.
Despite the children from Kiserian and Noosukuro having heard a lot of rumors about the people from Chepkalacha and Lomuge, and vice versa, on arrival both parties were very welcoming and open to meeting and making new friends. It came as big surprise when the children from Kiserian and Noosukuro were excited and eagerly awaiting the arrival of children from Chepkalacha and Lomuge. To most of them, the differences between their communities did not in any way hinder their chance to make a new friend.
From day one, the children from the selected schools were very receptive to interacting and socializing with each other. More so that it went as far as them sharing snacks, giving clothes and even lending money to one another when the other was lacking.
At the Peace camp, all students were one. There was no divide when it came to the difference in their communities.
In view of that, they were able to team up in groups comprising of children from the two distinct communities and manage to work together as a team to accomplish some of the tasks that had been accorded to their group, and on the other hand when a team was required to produce one student to represent their team in a challenge, the remaining teammates would gladly cheer their representative on regardless of the community he or she came from. It was very encouraging to see that the activities incorporated to the peace camp by CPI were extremely effective in bringing the children together as one.
Furthermore, despite having already made a friend or two from a different community than their own, the children were also able to learn simple phrases such as “we are very happy” and “thank you” in each other’s languages through the creativity applied by the CPI team using songs. This was carried out throughout the program and the children would be found singing the phrases on their own even during their free time contributing to the attainment of peace between the two communities.
CPI organizing for the peace camp between the Ilchamus and Pokot communities was a great chance and learning process for the children not only to make new friends and learn phrases in different languages, but to also see how similar they all are despite them being from different communities.
The 2022 Peace Camp held by CPI was very effective in bring the children from the two communities together. The children from Kiserian, Lomuge, Chepkalacha and Noosukuro, away from home easily interacted and related well despite some of the myths and misconceptions that they might have heard about the other community.
The activities set for the children though fun and entertaining, went ahead to teach and instill certain virtues such as kindness, humility and forgiveness among the children.
At the end i got to learn and see that the picture depicted in our minds from what we hear and see from media, although partly true, leaves out a whole other side of the story about the pastoral communities. A story about the people coming together to promote peace and co-exist in unity.
By Natasha Omori