Volltext: Zeitschrift für Ethnologie der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde und der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, 115.1990

Ethnic conflicts in North-West Kenya 
Pokot-Turkana Raiding 1969—1984* 
Michael Bollig 
Institut für Völkerkunde, Universität zu Kóln, Albertus-Magnus-Platz 5, D-5000 Kóln 41, Deutschland 
Abstract. Interethnic conflicts abound in the dryland areas of Eastern Africa. Violence between different 
pastoral groups causes widespread economic disruption. The conflict between the pastoral Pokot and Tur- 
kana of North-West Kenya, lasting from 1969 to 1984, is described. The focus of the paper is to look for 
causes of violence: the competition for scarce resources, the organisation of men in age-sets and the norms 
and values of warriorhood are discussed. The militarization of East Africa and the easy access to modern 
Weapons due to widespread illegal trade with guns is singled out as an important factor for the escalation of 
interethnic conflict. A view from the actor's perspective then opens up new prospects for analysis: Pokot 
men invest time and capital in raiding, because they want to achieve certain goals in life. 
Watching the news from Eastern Africa one easily gets the impression that countries 
like Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia are about to fall apart. Government author- 
ity is decreasing all over the Horn of Africa due to internal instability. The widespread 
insecurity causes large-scale migration of citizens away from the war-torn homelands 
resulting in economic stagnation and decline. Not only rebel armies are shaking gov- 
ernment authority, but also messianic movements, organized groups of bandits and 
traditional warriors fighting with modern weapons. 
For several years the semi-arid northern parts of Kenya were torn by secessionist 
movements (the Pan-Somali shifta movement) and intertribal warfare. All ethnic 
groups in the north had access to modern weapons from the early 70's onwards, the 
guns mainly coming from Somalia, Sudan or Uganda. A closer look at the guns used by 
tribal warriors gives insight into 50 years of European and American weapons’ pro- 
duction. From First World War guns with bayonets up to the most modern automatic 
guns (Kalashnikov, G3) — anything may be found. Ethnic groups living next to war- 
torn areas like Southern Sudan or Eastern Uganda have better access to modern wea- 
Pons than those groups living further inland. Relations between the central govern- 
Ment and the pastoral nomadic groups of the north have been strained for years (Schlee 
1984). Decisions on world system level influence the flow of weapons through East 
Africa considerably. The pastoral Pokot of Baringo District were engaged in inter-tri- 
ee i 
* The paper is based in two years fieldwork in Northwestern Kenya. The research was part of a larger DFG 
SPonsored project on ‘Militant conflicts in the Third World". 
Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 115 (1990) 73-90 © 1992 Dietrich Reimer Verlag 


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