Okumu, Willis (2017). Meanings of Violence and Its Impacts on the Socio-Political Relations among the Turkana and Samburu of Baragoi, Northern Kenya. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln.

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This thesis investigates the ways in which the Turkana and Samburu pastoralists groups use violence to negotiate their day to day relationships. Violence in the form of cattle raids, highway banditries, targeted shootings, torching of manyattas, vandalism of key resources such as schools and dispensaries and displacement of the ‘ethnic other’ are deployed by the two groups to gain power, cement in-group identity and eliminate competitors from common resources. In this study pastoralists’ violence is analysed as a resource and an agency through which individual and collective negotiations of socio-political relations between the Samburu and Turkana are carried out on a day to day basis. While pastoralists’ violence in East Africa has been seen in past studies from a moralist perspective as something negative, ‘primitive’ and as a symptom of break-down of law and order, this study, analyses violence as an a tool in the hands of the individual warrior’s, groups of warriors, political and business elites, deployed strategically to meet well planned ends of gaining power at an individual or collective level. To understand the changing meanings and purposes of violence among the Turkana and Samburu of Baragoi of Northern Kenya, this study approaches violence in Baragoi as a product of structural, proximate and processual factors. The interconnection between these three factors are explored through the following key arguments: that violence among pastoralists in Baragoi is part of a historical contest over socio-physical spaces between the Turkana and Samburu that has been ongoing since the pre-colonial times and has exacerbated over the years through the policies of colonial administrators and independent Kenya governments. Further, the regional instability in Eastern Africa has in effect contributed to the ‘normalising’ of violence through the proliferation of small arms and light weapons among the marginalised pastoralists of Northern Kenya. Historical marginalisation of Northern Kenya has further contributed to ‘normalisation’ of pastoralists violence as incidences of massacres are passed-off as cultural killings based cultural affinities among pastoralists. Passing off massacres as ‘cultural’ illustrates government’s disinterest and inability to govern pastoralist’s borderlands. In the contest over socio-spatial spaces of Baragoi, use and threat of violence in this case determines movement patterns of people and their livestock, electoral outcomes, grazing patterns, trading routes, location and access to livestock markets. The changing meanings and purposes of violence is also seen in the way the state interacts with the Samburu and Turkana. Residents narrate chronologies of ‘operations’ where paramilitary police have been deployed to ‘bring peace’ between the two groups. Contrary to the desired peace, these operations have tended to precipitate more violence as the state’s modus operandi of using greater instruments of violence including bombs and helicopter gun-fire have tended to cause deaths of people and livestock. Those who have lost livestock in such operations plan for new cycles of violence aimed at appropriating stock from ‘enemy’ groups and revenging lost lives. In this case the state as an actor in pastoralists’ violence deploys it as a route to inter-communal peacebuilding but it results into more violence. Violence is also analysed as a tool in the hands of political competitors used to gain power. Local elite conduct political campaigns based on their ‘protection credentials’ that is their ability to provide security for their ethnic groups against ‘enemy’ communities. Proof of protection credentials is tenable only through mobilisation of warriors for war, procurement and supply of arms and ammunition to warriors. Pastoralists’ violence in Baragoi is therefore linked to elite competition for and preservation of political power. Competition for political and economic power among elites further facilitates the patron-client networks between warriors, chiefs and Kenya Police Reservists (KPRs) on the one hand and the political and business elite on the other hand and this enables the sale and distribution of weapons used to conduct raids among enemy groups. Incidences of massacres reveal the inter-connectedness of past narratives of violence, to current violent contest and those of the future. Processual analysis of violence is applied in this thesis in the case of the Baragoi massacre of November 2012. It shows cases of pastoralists’ violence (in this case cattle raids) that have led to massacres in Northern Kenya to have been in situations where secondary actors mobilised for revenge (mostly political leaders). Revenge therefore plays a significant role as a catalyst for collective violence. This thesis analyses the state as a structural and proximate actor in violence among the Turkana and Samburu of Baragoi. Through the institution of KPRs, I argue that violence among pastoralists in Baragoi also stems from the local violent entrepreneurship that goes on in grazing lands among KPRs and warriors. The participation of KPRs in raids and highway banditries using government-issued arms and ammunition also reveals the complicity of the state in violence among pastoralists firstly through its neglect and marginalisation of Northern Kenya and secondly through its weak and unsupervised voluntary police unit; the KPRs which exacerbates the informalisation of violence in Northern Kenya. Violence and culture are also seen as mutually producing phenomena among the Turkana and Samburu of Baragoi. Violence is argued in this thesis has having the capacity to expand the cultural parameters of the traditional practice of cattle raiding. Violence among pastoralists that targets women and children in Baragoi today, reveal changes in the interpretation of female identities. While past studies argued that women and children were protected from violence though norms based on the notion that ‘women belonged to everyone’ as they adopted the identities of their husbands regardless of their ethnicities at birth (in patrilineal societies). This study reveals that increased targeting of women conforms to a more primordialist interpretation of identities among the Turkana and Samburu. The stringent interpretation of identities of women can also be argued to have expanded forms of violence on women such as rape, killing of milking stock and vandalism of women group investments. Stringent interpretation of ethnic identities can further be argued to have led to the diminishing of inter-ethnic marriages among the Turkana and Samburu of Baragoi. In summary, this study views violence among the Samburu and Turkana as a key driver of societal change based on its capacity to expand cultural parameters of institutions. It (violence) generates this general effect through the creation of fear that limits or precipitates movements and massacres that lead to displacements and dependency on relief supplies. The study applies several concepts drawn from anthropological theories of violence to explain the history and changing meanings of violence among pastoralists of Baragoi. This ethnographic study is the result of 101 in-depth interviews, 16 focused group discussions, 111 event calendars’ interviews and secondary data from the Kenya National Archives on the history of migration and settlement of the Samburu and Turkana in Baragoi, police signals, Occurrence Book data and personal notes obtained from respondents during the nine months of fieldwork in Northern Kenya compliment the interviews. Key words: Samburu, Turkana, pastoralists, violence, Northern Kenya

Item Type: Thesis (PhD thesis)
CreatorsEmailORCIDORCID Put Code
Okumu, Williswillokumu@gmail.comUNSPECIFIEDUNSPECIFIED
UNSPECIFIEDOkumu, Williswillokumu@gmail.com
URN: urn:nbn:de:hbz:38-73908
Date: January 2017
Language: English
Faculty: Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Fächergruppe 4: Außereuropäische Sprachen, Kulturen und Gesellschaften > Institut für Ethnologie
Subjects: Social sciences
Political science
Customs, etiquette, folklore
Geography and history
Uncontrolled Keywords:
Northern KenyaEnglish
Date of oral exam: 20 January 2017
NameAcademic Title
Bollig, MichaelProf. Dr
Anderson, DavidProf.Dr
Zillinger, MartinJun-.Prof.Dr.
Funders: DAAD, Right Livelihood College/ Center for Development Research (ZEF), Foundation Fiat Panis
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Refereed: Yes
URI: http://kups.ub.uni-koeln.de/id/eprint/7390


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