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MRG regional elders council in East Africa up and running

1 November 2007

As Kenya concludes celebrations to mark pastoralist week, Minority Rights Group International urges East and Horn of African states to better recognize the historical role of elders in conflict prevention in indigenous areas.

In August this year, with MRG backing, the landmark 'regional elders council' was set up in Addis Ababa.

"Historically elders played a big role in mediating between different indigenous groups over disputes. But post-colonization, and with the marking of national boundaries, the authority of the elders has generally diminished," says Tadesse Tafesse, MRG's Africa Programmes Officer.

"Now with resources dwindling, their role in mediating between different groups and preventing conflict can't be more emphasized," he adds.

The council comprises some 10 elders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Another significant achievement of the council has been its success in countering the traditional dominance of elderly men in the region by including four women in the council. The council is also unique because it is a community-based initiative, which also transcends national borders.