Journal of Social and Political


ISSN 2615-3718 (Online)

ISSN 2621-5675 (Print)

Published: 16 October 2019

External Conflict Escalation Among the Nilotic Pastoral Communities of Northern Kenya

Jonathan Ltipalei, Joshua M. Kivuva, Fred O. Jonyo

University of Nairobi, Kenya

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Pages: 829-847

Keywords: Clan, Conflict, Nilotic Pastoral Communities, Northern Kenya, Cold War


This article discusses the external dynamics that resulted in the proliferation of arms into Kenya in general and Northern Kenya in specific. The paper has two major arguments. First, during the cold war, there was an arms race in the region because of its strategic position. This resulted in the two superpowers, USA and USSR, to arm specific countries that were considered to be friendly to them. Second, the paper argues that beginning in the early '70s into the '80s and early 90s, a number of countries in the Horn of Africa experienced turmoil or civil strife. Political instability in Somalia made Kenyan Somalis able to obtain guns by volunteering to join the fight for the Ogaden in Ethiopia and then slipped back into Kenya. The current study found that the conflict in North Eastern Kenya is caused by scarcity of resources, economic and political marginalization, active resistance by pastoralist communities to assimilation, resource depletion, and demographic changes, and the growing availability of small arms and light weapons. Livestock has become the triggers and the medium for sustaining conflicts through cattle raiding for wealth accumulation and also for dowry payments. Modern technology has also become a clear instrument of conflict escalation. Pastoral communities in northern Kenya provide an excellent market for firearms. The study concludes that political instability in Somalia made Kenyan Somalis able to obtain guns by volunteering to join the fight for the Ogaden in Ethiopia and then slipped back into Kenya. The rivalry between Ethiopia and Eritrea led to an arms race between the two nations, where each country is involved in the massive acquisition of arms.


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