UNDP Administrator visits communities impacted by Kenya-Ethiopia cross-border peace initiative

Aug 25, 2016

Helen Clark (right) talking with mothers at the Moyale Sub-county Hospital during her visit to the health facility on August 25, 2016. Photo: UNFPA Kenya.

Magge Lole is a 30-year-old mother of seven children, and lives in Manyatta Burji in Moyale, Marsabit County. She delivered her seventh child in the hospital last night. Magge was married when she was 15 and had her first child when she was 16. She delivered her children at home with traditional birth attendants, and had only one antenatal visit during her last pregnancy.

The Gabra, Borana, Burji, Sakuye, and Garre communities live both in Ethiopia and Kenya.  The national boundaries of most African countries were artificially carved out during the colonial era, dividing and separating groups and communities which had coexisted for centuries.

“The conflict was very intense; my family and I were forced to seek refuge across the border in Ethiopia where we stayed for a week before returning back to Kenya,” Magge said in discussing how the tribal conflict in 2013 affected her life and family. Fortunately her home and property were not destroyed, although her neighbor wasn’t so lucky.

In an effort to ease local tensions, an innovative, comprehensive and integrated cross-border initiative to foster peace and sustainable development in the northern Marsabit County of Kenya and the southern Borana and Liben Zones in Ethiopia was initiated by the Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, in partnership with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations. 

Helen Clark visited Marsabit and spoke with the communities there and with people like Magge who hope there will be no return to the conflicts which had such an impact on the well-being of mothers, children, and young people.

Currently Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, has one of the continent’s fastest growing economies, and aims to become a carbon neutral middle-income country by 2025; while Kenya’s 2030 vision looks towards creating a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life.

In Marsabit County, poverty levels are still high, and there are low literacy levels and inadequate infrastructure and basic services. The poverty level in Marsabit County is about 83 per cent, and the illiteracy rate in the nearby Borana Zone stands at ninety per cent. The scarcity of resources has triggered conflict among resident pastoralist communities, especially over access to water and grazing land.

Despite the plethora of challenges, however, the region has much potential and many opportunities for development. It has large numbers of livestock, which could be harnessed for meat and dairy products. Cross-border trade between the two countries can be a driver of growth.

The region’s diverse and rich culture and natural and historic heritage also present considerable tourism potential.

Clean and renewable energy would have many positive economic, social, and environmental benefits. The Lake Turkana Wind Power project in the north of Kenya is attracting significant investment. 

Local communities in Marsabit county have already demonstrated their commitment to building a roadmap to peace and development. With ongoing support and facilitation, their peace committees can be even more effective instruments of long-term peace building and social cohesion.

“I believe this joint cross-border programme has the potential to be replicated in other parts of the Horn of Africa,” said Helen Clark.  “Programmes like these can help overcome the barriers borders created and lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development.”


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