Networks for Peace: Preventing and resolving conflicts through early warning mechanisms in Africa
Duration: October 2019 – October 2022
Communities: Rendile, Samburu, Borana, Gabra, Turkana, Mbororo, Basongora, Bakonzo, Batuku
What was this programme about?
The programme addressed deadly inter-community violence, conflicts between two main livelihoods of farming and cattle raising, identity conflicts, low community capacities, marginalisation and low trust between communities. In Uganda, we focused on conflicts affecting Mid-Western Uganda in the Rwenzori sub-region among the Batuku, Basongora and Bakonzo communities. In Cameroon, we focused on the conflict between pastoralist and agro-farming communities covering the East, West, Northwest and Adamaoua regions. In Kenya, we focused on conflicts in the North Eastern regions, specifically the counties of Isiolo and Marsabit among the Samburu, Turkana, Rendille, and Borana communities.
Why did we deliver this programme?
The programme addressed the problems which emerged as key issues in our research and consultations. The data showed that pastoralists are some of the poorest and most vulnerable populations in the region. There are usually no well-designed and systematically used Early Warning Mechanisms (EWMs) – or when they exist, many are flawed (for distinct reasons) and fail to prevent identity-based conflicts.
Minority and indigenous peoples’ (MIP) organizations usually have a poor capacity to mobilise, train and support their communities to feed into and use EWMs and to mobilise institutional responses. Additionally, the lack of solid networks between MIP organizations leads to reduced knowledge-sharing, mutual support, and collaboration at the regional and national levels. Duty-bearers and decision-makers lack awareness of identity-based conflicts and the political will to resolve them.
Weak links between MIP communities and duty-bearers result in insensitive interventions, reduced accountability, and continuing cycles of violence. As we were implementing this programme, we also supported the communities beyond our theory of change. Our discussions with partners and communities indicated that the latter are priority areas and that they are part of a coherent framework that can be viably addressed in a project of this scale and scope – for example through reducing the prevalence of small arms and changing the land tenure policy.
In Cameroon, the Anglophone conflict, while also affecting the Mbororo population, is beyond this intervention’s scope. These factors might be indirectly affected through our actions, for instance by amplifying the voices and demands of pastoralists and empowering them to advocate for their rights. Our activities were however not directly seeking to create change in these aspects.
What did we achieve?
- Strengthened the ability to exist and new advocacy actors to enable decision-makers to be held to account;
- Showed positive behaviour change in targeted groups as a result of the interventions; and
- Strengthened the response to conflict and local-level crises to improve resilience in fragile and conflict-affected states.
What did we do?
- Mapped and analysed conflict annually, using conflict experts, consulted with community members and stakeholders;
- Developed, strengthened and launched Early Warning Mechanisms (EWM) in each country after consultations with stakeholders – these mechanisms being secure, accessible, easy to input data into and extract data from;
- Organized research and validation meetings with community members and stakeholders to help test, refine and validate EWM frameworks and methods;
- Developed verification, analysis, visualisation and dissemination methods for EWMs and trained partners so that the data coming in is verified before sharing and well presented to improve ease of understanding by peace actors; partners will then be able to cascade this information to their communities and to other stakeholders;
- Developed and publicised intervention pathways, where stakeholders agree on the protocols and responses to EWM data – communities and partners will be able to use these pathways as a basis for advocacy to hold duty bearers accountable;
- Selected Peace Ambassadors (with special attention to gender balance) – the exact methodology will be determined by partners in collaboration with their communities, without duplicating any existing work;
- Built capacity for Peace Ambassadors through four-day training organized by our partners in collaboration with a peace expert;
- Raised awareness amongst communities – each Peace Ambassador conducted at least six awareness-raising sessions on different issues related to conflict prevention and peacebuilding;
- Organized networking meetings in years 2 and 3 to share information and knowledge and troubleshoot, and offer mutual support;
- Organized an annual peace conference, which brought together peace actors from target countries and communities to reflect on lessons learnt from the project, conflict dynamics and innovative solutions, and developed trends in conflict prevention (other stakeholders and communities may also be invited to see this project’s successes); and
- Sensitized duty-bearers and decision-makers annually on issues affecting minority communities, conflict prevention and the EWM and response.
Who were our partners?
Our partners were:
- Mbororo Social and Cultural Association (MBOSCUDA) – Cameroon
- Réseau Camerounais des Organisations de Droits de l’Homme (RECODH) – Cameroon
- Isiolo Gender Watch (IGW) – Kenya
- Samburu Women Trust – Kenya
- Kabarole Research and Resource Centre (KRRC) – Uganda
- Community Development Resource Network (CDRN) – Uganda
Who funded the programme?
This programme was funded by UK Aid Direct.
What did the external evaluation say?
The EWMs effectively addressed deadly inter-community violence in Cameroon, Kenya and Uganda, reaching over 20 per cent more than the number of targeted direct beneficiaries. The conflicts in targeted hotspots were reduced by over 60 per cent, achieving harmony between the conflicting communities. The expert advice and reliable presence of MRGA in working with the partners was attributed as a key factor in the success that has been achieved across the three countries.
Focusing on communities who are often underrepresented in government decision making, marginalized in resource distribution or sharing, and the least educated about their rights, addressed very relevant needs, felt and unfelt, among different stakeholders.
Prioritizing the design of EWMs by partners, in consultation with all stakeholders, from the beginning to the end of the project ensured local ownership and that the initiatives remained appropriate and relevant. Ensuring the deployment of the EWMs by local civil society actors for beneficiary communities improved the response mechanism and aided the ability of duty-bearers and institutional actors to respond in timely ways to identity-based conflicts and other crises faced by communities living in fragile, conflict-prone contexts.
Creating elaborate networking structures for partners, horizontally and vertically, further aided conflict prediction, communication, response coordination and affirmative actions. Engaging in advocacy activities within the communities led to a decline in negative perceptions and prejudices that had been fuelling most of these identity-based conflicts among the conflicting communities.
Strengthening the overall capacity of local civil society advocacy actors and building networks across the board including with duty bearers and national, regional and international peace actors, as well as developing a locally led alternative dispute resolution system through community dialogue, provided strong evidence that the project outcomes will outlast the project life.
The evaluators’ recommendations included that MRG continue to implement and replicate the innovative, participatory and adaptive strategies that led to the success of the project, bearing in mind that the further engagement of some duty bearers to address gaps in conflict response mechanisms should be intensified. They recommended that partners continue to network and expand their presence to areas not covered by the concluded project. Other CSOs were recommended to review the lessons learned and replicate these mechanisms into their programmes in similar contexts.
This content represents the views of Minority Rights Group only and is its sole responsibility. UK Aid Direct does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.
Photo: Awaho Talla, 37 years old and a mother of five is from the indigenous Mbororo tribe, living in the remote town of Yoko, in the Central Region of Cameroon. December 2018. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown. Published on Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.