Northern Kenya is the embodiment of the precariousness of a post-colonial nation-state. Both the colonial government and the post-independence governments neglected the region, leaving it completely underdeveloped compared to the rest of Kenya, a situation that the American writer Negley Farson described âas one half of Kenya that the other half knows nothing about, and indeed does seems to care â. Fewer [about]. “
Colonialists referred to the residents as “the enemy tribes” and as relations between the rest of Kenya and the north became strained, the region attempted to secede immediately after Kenya gained independence, a move that set the tone for the way the area was ruled, pretending to be after independence – closed and ignored.
Independent Kenya adopted the methods of colonial administration and continued to enact restrictive laws. While the colonial administration enacted the Outlying District Ordinance of 1902 and the Special District Ordinance of 1934, the Jomo Kenyatta administration enacted the Preservation of Public Security Act of 1964, hot on the heels of the Shifta War. In 1970 the government passed the Indemnity Act, which covered the northeastern provinces (Garissa, Wajir and Mandera) and the districts of Isiolo, Marsabit, Tana River and Lamu. The law immunizes the government against any right to compensation for human rights violations committed between December 25, 1963 and December 1, 1967.
The securitization of the region led to serious human rights violations by state security authorities. Massacres were perpetrated in Wagalla (Wajir), Malka Mari (Mandera) and Daaba (Isiolo) and people and livestock were included as part of the strategy to combat Shifta Revolt. Today, the high poverty of the Waso Borana is attributed to these events, with communities telling that any livestock found outside of the designated areas was either killed or confiscated and taken away by the military.
Thousands of families fled to Somalia, did not return until the early 1990s and settled in lower Garbatulla in Isiolo County. To date, some of these people do not have Kenyan identification documents, which are essential for access to services such as opening a bank account, MPESA (Mobile Money) transactions, admission to higher education, and traveling to Isiolo town from rural villages.
The securitization of the region led to serious human rights violations by state security authorities.
Government policy changed with the adoption of Session Paper No. 8 of 2012 on the National Policy for the Sustainable Development of Northern Kenya and other arid regions, which aims to address development imbalances, reduce poverty, manage violent conflict and ethnic strife, tackle climate challenges and make investments in the field of livestock markets, among others.
Isiolo County is known as the gateway to northern Kenya. About 285 km from Nairobi, this once sleepy and dusty county is now at the center of Kenya’s development plans. Indeed, the Isiolo government has put Isiolo at the center of the Kenyan Vision 2030, the country’s new development plan to transform Kenya into a “newly industrialized, middle-income country with a high quality of life for all citizens” by 2030.
Vision 2030 is perhaps an antidote to Sessional Paper No. 10 from 1965 on African socialism and its application to planning in Kenya. This first post-independence development plan created a dichotomy of low potential and high potential regions, a logic that placed northern Kenya in the low potential region, with the result that it received little in terms of investment from the government.
The most important pillars of Vision 2030 are mega-infrastructure projects, some of which are national and partly regional and involve the Isiolo district. The county was chosen to host one of the three resorts for Northern Kenya that are destined to become industrial, economic and tourism centers. The other two cities will be in Lamu and Turkana. Other flagship projects include the planned multi-billion shilling Crocodile Jaw dam on the Ewaso Ng’iro River on the Laikipia-Isiolo border, which has attracted fierce opposition due to fears that it will negatively impact over 3.5 million people of local communities and environmentalists bumps and wilds downstream. Other projects that have already been completed are Isiolo International Airport and the Isiolo-Moyale motorway.
Isiolo’s strategic location makes it a regional transport hub connecting northern Kenya with the rest of Kenya as well as with Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia via the multi-billion shilling Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor.
While these developments will undoubtedly spur Isiolo’s growth, there is a risk that they will cause further conflict if not implemented carefully. the region is already experiencing ethnic unrest, cattle theft, cross-border conflicts, land and border conflicts between Isiolo and the neighboring counties of Meru, Garissa and Wajir, and there is a new simmering border tension with the counties of Marsabit and Laikipia.
The expected benefits of these investments have exacerbated tensions between Isiolo and neighboring Garissa and Meru counties, with each county claiming a road or area. The likelihood of a border conflict is therefore high with the planned construction of the Horn of Africa Gateway Development Project (HOAGD) – formerly the Northern-Eastern Transport Improvement Project (NETIP) – which is scheduled to begin this year. When completed, the street will connect Isiolo with Garissa, Wajir and Mandera.
In his report LAPSSET – History and politics of an East African mega project, Adrian J. Browne argues that Kenya’s optimism about the LAPSSET project is based on “conservative feasibility statistics”. According to him, large infrastructure projects could âput between 2% and 3% of GDP in the [Kenyan] Economy âand even achieve higher growth rates between 8 and 10 percent of GDP when fully operational. Such growth would be groundbreaking and could transform Kenya into a middle-income country.
However, these projects have a dual impact on the community. First, for the pastoral communities whose livelihoods depend on the unrestrained mobility of livestock and people, these projects will disrupt their migration corridors. Second, these projects are being carried out on land that has been partially taken away from the pastoral communities, on land that shepherds use as grazing land in times of acute drought.
While these developments will undoubtedly spur Isiolo’s growth, there is a risk that they will cause further conflict if not implemented carefully.
On the 6,500 hectare land near Kipsing Gap – sandwiched between Katim Hill and Ol Doinyo Degishu Hill – about 20 kilometers west of the city of Isiolo, the multi-billion shilling holiday town is being built. However, the Kipsing Corridor is the area that municipalities resort to during periods of drought.
Speculative land purchases in anticipation of large-scale infrastructure projects could crowd out the local people. Large infrastructure projects are also the source of fierce clashes between local communities and even spiteful remarks between the county’s political leaders, each claiming part of the area in which they believe a project is being implemented. Isiolo leaders have also claimed they have little or no information about the project.
Species protection in the community
The conservation model run by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is a hot and passionate topic in Isiolo. Conservation advocates argue that nature reserves attract tourism and create employment opportunities for community members, improve safety, expand the livestock market, and preserve open green spaces to create world-class recreational facilities.
Opponents of protected areas question the importance of wild animals compared to cattle breeding and express fears about biopiracy and the loss of potential grazing land. They also cite the risk of increased conflict and the replacement of traditional resource management institutions such as Deedha with ineffective structures.
The influence of the nature conservation sector is so anchored in the political leadership that government officials from the criminal justice system to the Ministry of the Interior are appointed to the NRT board to legitimize its activities. Noordin Haji, Kenya’s Director of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (DPP), has been proposed to sit on the NRT board, which is also looking for a representative from the Interior Ministry and national government coordination.
Other proposed members of the NRT Board of Directors include Mbuvi Ngunze, the former CEO and Group Managing Director of Kenya Airways, Dr. Betty Addero Radier, CEO of the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB); Dr. Julius Kipngetich, former director and CEO, Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS); and Jarso Mokku, a respected elder from Isiolo and the current CEO of the Drylands Learning and Capacity Building Initiative (DLCI).
Mathew Brown, chief executive officer, Conservation, Africa; Joana Elliot, Senior Director of Flora and Fauna International; Mike Watson, CEO Lewa Wildlife Conservancy; and Kenya Forest Service, CEO Julius Kamau, was also proposed to serve on the NRT board.
To further cement its existence, the NRT is also suspected of sponsoring a âdeformedâ law, the Isiolo County Community Conservancies Bill 2021, which was hastily drafted and passed without public participation.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was founded in 1989 to conserve and manage wildlife. However, the influence of the NRT has grown and has overtaken the KWS through donor funding; The organization has taken the lead in shaping Kenya’s conservation policy.
The NRT claims on its website to be a grassroots conservation company that creates peace and protects the natural environment. Local communities in Isiolo, however, accuse the organization of deploying the dreaded and well-trained 9-1 and 9-2 Conservancy Rangers to assist Samburu raiders during the conflict between the communities. An unpublished report from 2019, prepared by Waso Borana Professionals (WBP), Errant Natives, and the Borana Council of Elders (BCE), provides details on documented grave human rights violations, promises not kept and livelihoods at risk from the loss of strategic water points and Pastures.
Local communities in Isiolo accuse the NRT of deploying the dreaded and well-trained 9-1 and 9-2 Conservancy Rangers to assist Samburu raiders during the conflict between the communities.
Deadly and violent conflicts have been a feature of the region for decades. The feud is often fueled by conflicts over pasture and water and facilitated by easy access to small arms and light weapons (SALW).
But the proposed mega-infrastructure projects have now shifted the focus of the conflict to disputes over land and borders, an emotional issue that reinforces deeply ingrained feelings of regional exclusion and inequality.
If Kenya is serious about its development ambitions, the government must speak out and get away from the previous missteps of Sessional Paper No.