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EAC peace caravan, benchmarking tour for border communities launched in Namanga

The East African Community (EAC) Secretariat in collaboration with the republics of Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan and in partnership with the AU Border Programme (AUBP), have launched a peace caravan.

This and a benchmarking tour for border communities in selected areas where border and/or boundary issues have been peacefully and successfully resolved for experiential learning at Namanga on the Kenya-Tanzania border, Kenya side.

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The overall objective of the caravan is to promote peaceful co-existence, good neighbourliness and peaceful resolution of disputes among border communities through experiential learning from best practices of other border communities in the region.

The peace caravan and benchmarking tour is also aimed at sensitising the border communities on ongoing national, regional and continental initiatives to peacefully and sustainably resolve the borders/boundary issues as well as learn from experiences, lessons and best practices of border communities where border disputes were peacefully and successfully resolved.

The seven-day caravan involved representatives of the Atekar community composed of Turkana, Kenya; the Toposa of South Sudan, and; the Karamajong of Uganda, started in Lodwar, Turkana County in Kenya and travelled by bus to Namanga border through Eldoret to interact and learn from the experiences of the Maasai community.

Speaking at the launch, Kenya’s Prime Cabinet Secretary, Musalia Mudavadi, said the caravan provides platforms for EAC to sensitize effected border communities on the ongoing national, regional and continental initiatives on peaceful and sustainable resolution of disputes.

“There is no doubt therefore that we collectively stand to benefit from peaceful co-existence, good neighbourliness and peaceful resolution of disputes along our borders,” said Mudavadi.

The Prime CS underscored the importance of the caravan as an opportunity to appreciate that borders are not barriers but bridges to the movement of goods, services and people across East Africa without any impediments.

“In this manner, borders should make significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) through investment, pastoralism value chains and informal cross border trade,” said Mudavadi.

Mudavadi commended the Partner States for putting in place joint initiatives like the establishment of joint surveying and demarcation teams or commissions and MoU’s and agreements for the management of borders, among other things.

The Prime CS informed the meeting that historically, borderlands have borne the disproportionate burden of poverty, insecurity, displacement, climate change impacts and inadequate food and water, among other challenges.

He added that seamless cross-border mobility among affected inhabitants, poor cohesion building mechanisms, lack of joint management of shared natural resources and gender insensitivity predispose border communities to the twin threats of insecurity and strife.

The Prime CS told the border communities that the EAC integration is a people-centric process that brings on board elders, women, youth, the civil society, religious leaders, private sector players and other interest groups.

“Let me echo the words of His Excellency President Dr. William Ruto, that the EAC will only achieve its full potential when it eliminates the restrictions inhibiting free movement of citizens across the borders by way of creating a borderless community,” said Mudavadi.

On his part, the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive, Social, Infrastructure and Political Sectors, Hon. Andrea Aguer Ariik Malueth, said the peace caravan and benchmarking tour is anchored in Articles 5, 6, 123 and 124 of the Treaty for Establishment of the EAC as well as Article 4 of the EAC Protocol on Peace and Security.

“In these provisions, EAC Partner States commit to the promotion of peace and security, peaceful co-existence and good neighborliness among States as well as peaceful resolution of disputes,” said Ariik.

The DSG added that Partner States agreed that peace and security are the prerequisites to social and economic development within the Community and vital to the achievement of the objectives of the Community.

“In other words, EAC’s overarching vision of a peaceful, prosperous, competitive and politically united East Africa can only be attained within an environment capable of protecting the gains so far registered,” said Malueth.

“Indeed, without peace and stability all remarkable achievements of the past two decades including the under Common Market, Customs Union and progress toward a monetary union would fall like a castle built on sand,” he said.

The Deputy Secretary General disclosed that a study on the state of borders and boundaries in the region conducted by the EAC Secretariat in 2021, identified 22 boundary and territorial disputes (both manifest and latent) gestating in East Africa.

“According to the study, though some border issues in the region are still dormant. All EAC Partner States have experienced varying degrees of intra–and extra–regional border challenges. The potential for the unresolved issues to escalate into violence and threaten peace, security and regional integration cannot be underestimated,” added Malueth.

“The peace caravan and benchmarking tour therefore is part of the EAC Secretariat and Partner States’ response to the border communities’ request in an effort to promote peaceful co-existence, sustainable peace and stability in the region,” said the DSG.

The DSG informed the meeting that for efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process, the peace caravan has been organised in two phases.

Phase one, involving the Ateker communities of Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan Trijunction visiting and benchmarking with the Maasai community; and phase two, involving the Madi and Kuku communities of Moyo and Kajokeji (Uganda and South Sudan border) visiting Vurra (Uganda/DRC border).

On his part, Ambassador Frederic Gateretse Ngoga, the Focal Point for Partnerships and Regional Security Mechanism to the Office of the Commissioner for Political Affairs and Peace and Security from African Union (AU) said unresolved border issues have the potential to escalate into violence and threaten peace, security, regional integration, creating insecurity in border communities, the movement of people, goods and services.

Amb. Ngoga reaffirmed the AU Commission’s commitment to assist all AU Members States to achieve their joint objectives of enhancing the peaceful co-existence of their border communities.

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