From the foregoing literature, it is evident that few studies in Africa have been conducted to link cultural practices to ethnic clashes particularly in Kenya, prompting this study to fill this gap in Borabu-Bomet area which is largely a sedentary area as opposed to pastoralist areas and economies where most existing literature is focused.
This study intends to show how cultural perceptions, beliefs and prejudices could be bases of conflict between the Kisii and Kipsigis of Borabu/Sotik border. The study will depict how cultural perceptions fuel conflicts at the inter-communal border. By adding culture and perceptions to the analysis of Kipsigis/Kisii conflict, this study hopes to add to existing literature on inter-ethnic conflicts and indigenous conflict resolution in Kenya as well as understanding the interface between culture and conflicts in Kenya.
1.6 Scope and limitations of the study
The study will be conducted in Sotik and Borabu sub-counties. This area has been a battlefield for the youth from the two communities since the 1990s. The areas of focus include Chebilat, Kipsimbol, Riontonyi, Ekerubo, Koiyet, Ikorongo and Ramasha, which have experienced conflict as late as 2016. The study period is from 1991 to 2016. 1991 marked the re-introduction of multi-partysm in Kenya following more than a decade of de facto one party rule. This coincided with increased politicised inter-ethnic clashes in Kenya. 2016 represents the most recent period in which the communities have attacked each other. A number of challenges are expected while conducting the research. This includes suspicion on the side of respondents especially from the Kipsigis side due to the researcher being a Kisii. The problem will be solved by having a research assistant from the Kipsigis community. The geographical area to be covered along the border is fast and extensive. Stratified sampling technique will be applied.
1.7 Literature Review
1.7.1 History, nature and causes of inter-group wars
Nugent, in discussing the influence of colonial era on post-colonial African conflicts argues that conflicts occur within a state or between states. Most inter-state conflicts arise from the artificial nature of African boundaries created during the period of the partition of Africa. He observes that it is almost a cliche to suggest that boundaries were inherently artificial in the sense that they interpose barriers between peoples that did not exist by any fundamental law of human organization. People lived within the recognition of their cherished and respected cultures. But then, clichés, according to Nugent, sometimes had the advantage of reminding people of important truths that were obscured behind the more obvious truisms. In particular, the fact that boundaries were scarcely ever ‘natural’, tended to mean that there was generally a gap between the intentions of those whose task was to police boundaries and the concerns of the rest of humanity who live with, subvert, destroy or simply ignore them. The interplay between official intention and popular perceptions between policy and the flow of everyday life, was part of what imparted a paradoxical quality to all boundaries. The idea of boundaries came with the infiltration of the Europeans into Kenya thus interfering with the cultural co-existence of the Kenyan communities. Nugent’s ideas points out how European colonial policies of demarcating boundaries sowed the seeds of many conflicts in Africa. This is applicable to the Borabu/Sotik case which has seen claims by Kipsigis that some of the areas in Kisii are traditionally theirs, based on names. However, Nugent’s focus is on the role of colonialism on African conflicts and does not therefore mention cultural perceptions and how they could impact on cross-border conflicts.
Joshua asserts that there has been a decline in the number of inter-state armed conflicts in the recent years, but the scale, intensity, persistence and number of internal conflicts had increased tremendously. As new countries joined the international community as a result of the process of decolonization, the ruling class in post-colonial societies failed to establish legitimacy in ensuring economic and social justice to the people. In plural and multi-ethnic societies, it caused polarization along religious, linguistic and ethnic lines. The level of internecine struggles sometimes became so intense that they posed a threat to the unity and integrity of both the state and society. It is significant to understand the root causes and dynamics of these conflicts to envisage viable ways of solving them. Joshua brings out the role of political polarization by elites for political gains. Kipsigis/Kisii conflicts have been prevalent in electioneering periods suggesting a political role in the conflicts. However, the author does not discuss how such internal conflicts can be resolved indigenously by the affected groups.
1.7.2 Colonialism, politics and inter-ethnic conflicts
Different communities had their own differences in Pre-colonial period. However, the colonialists nurtured these differences carefully and deliberately. These were later exploited by the local political bourgeoisie in the post-independence period. Nnoli points out that a contributory factor that has made ethnic conflicts more severe in Africa than in other parts of the world are the incursion and exploitation by the colonialists that compounded already strained inter-ethnic relations. Colonial powers utilized the segmentation of ethnic groups to their advantage. According to Ayugma, colonialists argued that they ‘tried to make a nation-state out of a hotchpotch of antagonistic and uncivilized African peoples but failed in their pious mission’ The various tribes had age-long hatred for one another and as soon as the colonial power went, the natives descended into barbarism, maiming and killing each other. Nnoli and Ayugma, highlights the role of persistent hatred among Africans as a source of repeated inter-ethnic conflicts. However, while discussing ethnic conflicts, they do not point out how such hatred can be addressed through indigenous mechanisms.