Kioko, Eric Mutisya (2016). Turning conflict into coexistence: cross-cutting ties and institutions in the agro-pastoral borderlands of Lake Naivasha basin, Kenya. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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The Maasai/Kikuyu agro-pastoral borderlands of Maiella and Enoosupukia, located in the hinterlands of Lake Naivasha’s agro-industrial hub, are particularly notorious in the history of ethnicised violence in the Kenya’s Rift Valley. In October 1993, an organised assault perpetrated by hundreds of Maasai vigilantes, with the assistance of game wardens and administration police, killed more than 20 farmers of Kikuyu descent. Consequently, thousands of migrant farmers were violently evicted from Enoosupukia at the instigation of leading local politicians. Nowadays, however, intercommunity relations are surprisingly peaceful and the cooperative use of natural resources is the rule rather than the exception. There seems to be a form of reorganization. Violence seems to be contained and the local economy has since recovered. This does not mean that there is no conflict, but people seem to have the facility to solve them peacefully. How did formerly violent conflicts develop into peaceful relations? How did competition turn into cooperation, facilitating changing land use? This dissertation explores the value of cross-cutting ties and local institutions in peaceful relationships and the non-violent resolution of conflicts across previously violently contested community boundaries. It mainly relies on ethnographic data collected between 2014 and 2015. The discussion therefore builds on several theoretical approaches in anthropology and the social sciences – that is, violent conflicts, cross-cutting ties and conflicting loyalties, joking relationships, peace and nonviolence, and institutions, in order to understand shared spaces that are experiencing fairly rapid social and economic changes, and characterised by conflict and coexistence. In the researched communities, cross-cutting ties and the split allegiances associated with them result from intermarriages, land transactions, trade, and friendship. By institutions, I refer to local peace committees, an attempt to standardise an aspect of customary law, and Nyumba Kumi, a strategy of anchoring community policing at the household level. In 2010, the state “implanted” these grassroots-level institutions and conferred on them the rights to handle specific conflicts and to prevent crime. I argue that the studied groups utilise diverse networks of relationships as adaptive responses to landlessness, poverty, and socio-political dynamics at the local level. Material and non-material exchanges and transfers accompany these social and economic ties and networks. In addition to being instrumental in nurturing a cohesive social fabric, I argue that such alliances could be thought of as strategies of appropriation of resources in the frontiers – areas that are considered to have immense agricultural potential and to be conducive to economic enterprise. Consequently, these areas are continuously changed and shaped through immigration, population growth, and agricultural intensification. However, cross-cutting ties and intergroup alliances may not necessarily prevent the occurrence or escalation of conflicts. Nevertheless, disputes and conflicts, which form part of the social order in the studied area, create the opportunities for locally contextualised systems of peace and non-violence that inculcate the values of cooperation, coexistence, and restraint from violence. Although the neo-traditional institutions (local peace committees and Nyumba Kumi) face massive complexities and lack the capacity to handle serious conflicts, their application of informal constraints in dispute resolution provides room for some optimism. Notably, the formation of ties and alliances between the studied groups, and the use of local norms and values to resolve disputes, are not new phenomena – they are reminiscent of historical patterns. Their persistence, particularly in the context of Kenya, indicates a form of historical continuity, which remains rather “undisturbed” despite the prevalence of ethnicised political economies. Indeed, the formation of alliances, which are driven by mutual pursuit of commodities (livestock, rental land, and agricultural produce), markets, and diversification, tends to override other identities. While the major thrust of social science literature in East Africa has focused on the search for root causes of violence, very little has been said about the conditions and practices of cooperation and non-violent conflict resolution. In addition, situations where prior violence turned into peaceful interaction have attracted little attention, though the analysis of such transitional phases holds the promise of contributing to applicable knowledge on conflict resolution. This study is part of a larger multidisciplinary project, “Resilience in East African Landscapes” (REAL), which is a Marie Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks (ITN) project. The principal focus of this multidisciplinary project is to study past, present, and future thresholds and sustainable trajectories in human-landscape interactions in East Africa over the last millennia. While other individual projects focus on long-term ecosystem dynamics and societal interactions, my project examines human-landscape interactions in the present and the very recent past (i.e. the period in which events and processes were witnessed or can still be recalled by today’s population). The transition from conflict to coexistence and from competition to cooperative use of previously violently contested land resources is understood here as enhancing adaptation in the face of social-political, economic, environmental, and climatic changes. This dissertation is therefore a contribution to new modes of resilience in human-landscape interactions after a collapse situation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Kioko, Eric Mutisyaekioko1@uni-koeln.deUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-70644
Date: 22 November 2016
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Subjects: Social sciences
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Maasai, Kikuyu, Cross-cutting ties, Institutions, Conflict resolution, Enoosupukia, Maiella, Lake Naivasha Basin, KenyaUNSPECIFIED
Date of oral exam: 9 November 2016
NameAcademic Title
Bollig, MichaelProf. Dr.
Anderson, DavidProf. Dr.
Widlok, ThomasProf. Dr.
Funders: European Commission; Marie Curie Actions Innovative Training Networks
Projects: Resilience in East African Landscapes
Refereed: Yes


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