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Intra-Ethnic Land Conflict. An Example of the Ameru Indigenous Peace Building Approaches

Hausarbeit 2017 14 Seiten

Soziologie - Individuum, Gruppe, Gesellschaft



1.1 Background of the Study
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Research Questions

2.1 Empirical Review
2.1.1 Indigenous Insitiutution (Njuri Ncheke) Council of Elders Peace Building Approaches on Intra-Ethnic Land Conflicts in Meru
2.2 Theoretical Framework
2.2.1 Psycho-cultural Conflict Theory


4.1 General Information
4.1.1 Response Rate
4.1.2 Distribution of the Respondents by Gender
4.1.3 Distribution of the Respondents by Age Brackets
4.2 Ameru Indeginous Peace Building Approaches
4.3 Summary

5.0 Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1 Conclusion
5.2 Recommendations



Purpose: The purpose of this study was to assess the Ameru indigenous peace building approaches used in mitigation of intra-ethnic land conflict.

Methodology: The study was built on Psycho-cultural conflict theory that incorporates both individuals and identity groups of individuals as the units of analysis, aimed at creating sustainable and long lasting peace in the midst of intra-ethnic land conflict among the Ameru people. The study adopted a cross section design approach and systematic random sampling method used to select a sample of 251 congregate leaders. Synod Bishops as well as leaders of the Njuri Ncheke council of elders were interviewed. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected using questionnaires and interview schedules.

Results : The study revealed that all Njuri Ncheke elders were aware of intra-ethnic land conflicts in Meru region. The conflicts were as a result of Incitement from politician to the people of their tribe, land grabbing, border disputes among sub-tribes, corruption in the land offices and lack of correct procedures of titling and cattle rustling among other issues brought land conflict issues in the region. Njuri Ncheke uses negotiation and dialogue as a method to settle land conflict.

Unique contribution to theory, practice and policy: The findings of this study will help the policy makers to come up with policies that can stop the conflicts, NGOs and other peace actors in addressing land ethnic conflicts and other related issues. The study findings will also contribute to theory and practice in intra-ethnic land conflict mitigation which most scholars will write a conflict theoretical perspective rather than psycho-cultural perspective. This study treats psycho-cultural perspective as important way of establishing Methodist church peace building approaches and mitigation of intra-ethnic land conflict at grassroots level due to autochthony and identity knowledge of Ameru people of Meru County in eastern Kenya.

Keywords: peace building approaches, indigenous, intra-ethnic, land conflict, Ameru people


1.1 Background of the Study

Ethnic land conflict is an intrinsic component of the socio-political realities of multi-ethnic states in the World. Ethnizing of politics and politicization of ethnic communities are common and have diffused mutual tolerance, and sharpened ethnic consciousness among various communities. The processes of socio-economic change, the ethnic dimensions of the power structure, and the policies, strategies as well as tactics adopted by various governments in response to the urges and aspirations of different ethnic groups provide a ground for a clear understanding of ethnicity, ethnic conflict and their dimensions (Mohammed, 1996). The concept of ethnicity has also become a critical variable in the formation and reformation of states. In fact, some scholars such as Jeffrey (1986); Austin (1994) and Phadris (1989) have argued that even the partition of colonial India into the two new states of India and Pakistan had its roots in the ethnic distinctiveness of the two nations.

Ethnic land conflicts according to Weiner (2003) are common phenomenon in most countries around the world. In Sri Lanka for instance, ethnic land conflict has been ongoing and has existed as part of a linear historic process. Weiner asserts that, ethnic land conflict has been a common phenomenon in India, since India is characterized by more ethnic and religious groups than most countries in the world. The Assam ethnic conflicts in India attracted large attention where three cultural groups have been in collision; the Assamene, the Bengalis and the tribal, which are the localized communities.

Land issues in Africa have been a primary source of conflict for decades (Kangoi, 1974). The varied socio-cultural perspectives and ethnic differences are associated with the causes of some of the land ethnic conflicts in Africa. Studies by scholars such as, Solenberg (2000) and Eriksson & Wallenstein et al (2004) pointed out that the majority of land ethnic conflicts has been witnessed in Countries in Africa. The Great Lakes region (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo) and the Horn of Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eriteria and Somali) have witnessed ethnic- related conflicts with Rwanda having the largest share. In Rwanda in 1994, for example, more than half a million people lost their lives and more than three million were forced to flee to Zaire (Kinoti, 1994). This was a result of ethnic tensions caused by accumulation of land by the Tutsi chiefs led to the rise of the Hutu power, an ideology that stressed that the Tutsi intended to enslave the Hutus and hence had to be resisted at all cost.

In Kenya, there have been a number of ethnic conflicts over time (Ogot, 1997; Rutto, 2000; Maina, 2000; Gecaga, 2002; Kahumbi, 2004). The Rift Valley region, for instance, which is the largest region in Kenya is inhabited by different ethnic groups, including, Agikuyu, Kalenjin, Pokot, Abaluyia, Samburu, Maasai, Turkana and Marakwet among others. The region has witnessed ethnic related conflicts from the 1980s in several of its former districts, in particular Nakuru, Laikipia and Mt. Elgon. Occurrences of such conflicts have been largely connected with competition for political power, prestige and resources such as land (Otunnu, 1997; Maina, 2000). This has resulted to deaths, lack of peace, injustice, displacement of persons, and loss of property, underdevelopment and general disorientation of people’s living patterns (Kinoti, 1994).

The land conflicts among the Ameru community are one of the most intrinsic social-political components in Kenya. The Ameru Community has experienced intra-ethnic land related conflicts, since 1992 and resurgence in 2006. Meru County is located in the Eastern Parts of Kenya that borders; Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi, Nyeri and Laikipia Counties. Intra-ethnic land conflict in Meru is majorly due to the physical features that exist on the borders of different tribes in the area which are; Imenti, Igembe, Tigania, Tharaka and Chuka sub-tribes.

The conflicting regions are Tigania with Isiolo bounder and as well as Tigania and Tharaka bounder, who clash over the territorial boundaries of their people in the Meru region (Justino, 2008). Additionally, the people from these regions reject the borders demarcated by physical features such as rivers and hills and instead have preferences of where bounderies should pass so as continue enjoying the resources around or along the physical features. Leaders from the warring communities argue that the current boundaries that created new districts separated families in that Tigania people encroached Isiolo bounder taking their land. Also Tharaka people were placed in Tigania district and some Tigania people moved to Tharaka district thus fueling the intra-ethnic rivalry over the borders (Rimita, 1988).

1.3 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to assess the Ameru indigenous peace building approaches used in mitigation of intra-ethnic land conflict.

1.4 Research Questions

The study answered the following question;

1. What has been the Ameru indigenous peace building approaches used in mitigation of intra-ethnic land conflict?


2.1 Empirical Review

2.1.1 Indigenous Insitiutution (Njuri Ncheke) Council of Elders Peace Building Approaches on Intra-Ethnic Land Conflicts in Meru

In order to have a clear understanding on how Ameru resolved intra-ethnic land conflict, this part of the study will evaluate the concept of land among the Ameru people and their indigenous methods used by Njuri Ncheke council of elders in resolving conflict. This will assisting in answering the question there is a need to synchronization the indigenous approaches with those of the Methodist Church for a purpose of proper mitigation of intra-ethnic land conflict.

The land of ancestry is a deep concept of identity that informs the politics of land in Meru. The Ameru people view land as a precious commodity and this raises conflicting interest as they fight to possess it. They tend to protect land as they claim ownership and belonging. According to Geschiere (2009), the idea of autochthony is an expression of the local born from the soil, which represents the most authentic form of belonging. The Ameru people and their attachment to land define their concept of identity, ownership and territorial rights. This leads to conflict whenever their land is interfered with. Intra- ethnic land conflict calls for intervention and mitigation. According to Kangoi (1974), Ameru people of Meru County had an indigenous institution called Njuri Ncheke council of elders. Rimita (1988) noted that Njuri Ncheke handled day to day matters of the communities and specifically paid attention to settlement of land conflicts arising from border disputes, criminal cases and all matters of justice .The Njuri is the only traditional judicial system which is recognized by the Kenyan government. This council of elders deals with cultural issues like land and properties within the county. It is therefore considered legitimate and influential especially on issues of political decision making amongst the Meru people (History of Meru on Blog). The Njuri is also a custodian of Meru traditional law and order which deals with land and property issues (ibid). The Njuri Ncheke council formed an effective government that kept law and order and settled disputes among the community. The mechanisms used to resolve disputes under traditional justice forum include negotiation, mediation, conciliation, settlement, consensus approach and restoration.

These mechanisms focus on restoring peace and maintaining social bonds. Since traditional or primitive societies have complex relationships, the social bonds and social capital help dispute resolution institutions with the help of council of elders.

The respect bestowed by the people to the council of elders has shown an appropriate way to provide an advice to the people. According to Maseru (2008), among the communities the council of elders is respected, thus creating an opportunity for the decisions to be made to the people without having to use different sources of negotiations. Thus, agreements kept in the traditional history of the people are respected by the generations that come and hence providing an easy way to convince the generations on the appropriate way of settling the agreements on the conflicts that arise. Schirch (2001) pointed out that one of the common Indigenous methods of peace and reconciliation was use of rituals. Ritual functions relating to identity are important to the process of reconciliation since, Rituals can transform people’s identities, create new shared identities for people in conflict, and heal the wounds that may result from conflict. Moreover, rituals regulate relationships in communities. They serve as ways of defining identity and providing the social lubricant to relate to others and to the surrounding world. Therefore, rituals are special contexts conducive to the symbolic transformation of identity and reframing of conflict towards sustainable and coexisting relationships. The mention of rituals raises a question on the spiritual aspect of Indigenous peace building approaches methods and hence raising the need to evaluate the Methodist Church peace building approaches and mitigation of conflict.

2.2 Theoretical Framework

2.2.1 Psycho-cultural Conflict Theory

The psycho-cultural conflict theory emphasizes the role of culture in a deep seated disposition of human actions of enmity and opposition of ‘we’ versus ‘they’ stemming from earliest development and social relationships (Ross 1993; 1995). The theory postulates that identity is the most important need in the hierarchy of human needs and when denied, this results in conflict. Identity is the key aspect in the evolution of psychological processes resulting to psycho-cultural dispositions of shared perception based on people’s ethnic origin that frame the belief about self and others resulting to groups being in conflict. Ross (1995), argues that psycho-cultural theory gives a central role to culturally rooted social and psychological processes which produce dispositions of shared images, perceptions of external world and motives for individual and group behavior. The theory postulate that deep seated threats to identity and security fears serves as powerful barriers; which prevent groups from addressing the competing interests which divide them. Psycho-cultural conflict theory argues that identity based on intra-ethnicity explains the main reason for conflicts in society.

This theory provides a framework for understanding and explaining the linkages among perspectives on land ownership, ethnic or intra-ethnic identity, belonging, territorial rights and conflict. Conflict in Africa revolve around the question of community identities in relation to land administrative matters and political constituency concerning land, which are built on matters related to territorials right and ownership of land. The location of a territory is a social act of registration of a place in the specificity (Mazurek, 2006). So, territory gives people a sense of recognition of that place through the identity, governance and the notion of belonging and citizenship. Among the Ameru people, conflict based on intra-ethnic land boundaries and land ownership are attributed to political influences with land becoming the common battle ground.



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Titel: Intra-Ethnic Land Conflict. An Example of the Ameru Indigenous Peace Building Approaches