To foster peace in the Horn of Africa, Pact supports Turkana cultural festival

August 19, 2019
Dancers at the Tobong’u Lore festival.

Pact's Selam Ekisil project supported the annual Tobong’u Lore cultural festival in Lodwar, Turkana, to help foster peace, prosperity and local development in the border region, which historically has been beset by conflict and insecurity.

Tobong’u Lore, which means "welcome home," was held Aug. 14-17 at a local cultural center. Selam Ekisil, or SEEK, is funded by European Union Trust Fund for Africa. The project's consortium partners, along with the government of Kenya (both the national and county level), hosted the Ethiopian ambassador to Kenya, Meles Alem, and the EU delegation’s head of cooperation and acting EU ambassador, Hubert Perr.

“Since peace is a pre-requisite for any development, it needs to be sustained and supported by other pillars of development," Perr said, "and this is the reason why EU’s investment along the cross-border areas of Kenya and Ethiopia are mainly focused around three key areas that build upon one another: peace, resilience and inter-governmental coordination. Celebrating culture provides needed tourism revenue to the Turkana County government, but at the same time, it’s a platform of integration and building peace among conflicting communities as evidenced in this event.’’

Deputy President William Ruto (left), Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem (center) and EU Acting Ambassador and Head of Cooperation for Kenya Hubert Perr.
Deputy President William Ruto (left), Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya Meles Alem (center) and EU Acting Ambassador and Head of Cooperation for Kenya Hubert Perr.

The four-day event attracted thousands of local and international participants, including Kenya's deputy president, William Ruto, and Raila Odinga, former prime minister of Kenya and currently the high representative for infrastructure development in Africa. The festival’s primary objective was to give Turkana and neighboring cross-border communities a platform for celebrating their unique cultural heritage and an opportunity to interrelate and network on behalf of peace, development and regional cohesion.

“This is not just a cultural festival, but one that unites culture together with peace and regional development," said Leslie Mitchell, Pact's Kenya country director. "Such initiatives need to be built upon, and with the support of the EU Cross-Border Programme and the respective governments in the region, communities have begun to build trust and collaboration between the vast cross-border communities."

SEEK adopts a conflict systems based approach to address the multiple causes of conflict in cross-border areas and to promote peace building, conflict management and conflict resolution capacity at the community and cross-border levels. It is part of the EU’s programme for Collaboration in the Cross Border areas of the Horn of Africa, working to prevent and mitigate the impact of local conflict and to promote economic development and greater resilience in four different cross-border regions.

The Tobong’u Lore event was the fifth annual cultural festival. Such festivals are one of many tools used to build peaceful and cohesive regional collaboration to foster favorable conditions for investments and sustainable economic development.

“Culture is a perfect means of positive communication and trust building, as most conflicts revolving around Turkana County are resource-based," said Pact’s regional team lead for SEEK, Yussuf Mohamed Abdullahi. "With support from the EUTF, Pact is keen to continue working with the Turkana County government as they plan to implement a culture-driven development program focusing on three sectors: cultural and creative Industries, peace and cross-border initiatives, and aquaculture infrastructure.”

Kenyan and Ethiopian officials held an intergovernmental meeting during the event.

During the event, Pact and senior Turkana County officials held an inter-governmental meeting to discuss successes, challenges and emerging issues related to cross-border security. The Turkana officials included Governor Josephat Nanok, Deputy Turkana County Commissioner Mativo and South Omo Zonal Senior Administrator Lore Kakuta. Alem and Perr co-chaired the meeting.  

Outcomes of the meeting included the establishment of six resolutions between Ethiopia and Kenya regarding peace, security and regional cooperation. SEEK will work with communities, respective governments and the EU to ensure implementation of the agreements.