Pastoral counties of northern Kenya are expected to undergo massive change in the coming years due to the government’s ambitious infrastructural development agenda. However, the area frequently experiences violence as a result of conflict between pastoralist communities, and also due to ethno-political contestations. Isiolo County is one such place where planned development projects and conflict risks coincide, making it an important case study for understanding how the future may unfold.
This Working Paper is written in the framework of a larger project called “Future Rural Africa: Future-making and social-ecological transformation” by the Universities of Bonn and Cologne and BICC (Bonn International Center for Conversion). BICC is interested in the kinds of claims that are being made on land and its resources and how these may change the existing dynamics of organised violence. The author, Kennedy Mkutu, United States International University, Nairobi, explores the complexity of existing conflict in Isiolo and the emerging effects of new plans and land claims. At its most basic level, conflict between pastoral groups, or between pastoralists and farmers is motivated both by survival (pastoral mobility and access to water and pasture in a climatically challenging area) and the accumulation of livestock wealth. Politics, which is generally extended along ethnic lines, adds another layer to the inter-communal conflict through the need for political survival and the accumulation of personal wealth.