Fiche de document Dossier : Conflict Transformation

Grenoble, mai 2009

The Wajir Story, a documentary about women peacemakers in Somalia

A tool in teaching “Stages of Conflict”.

Mots clefs : Résistance civile et pacifique à la guerre | Lutte pacifique de libération politique | Résistance civile | Gestion de tensions inter-ethniques | Respect du pluralisme politique | Liberté d'opinion et d'expression | Liberté de réunion et d'association | Résistance non armée à la répression militaire | Bonne gouvernance et paix | Association locale de femmes | Groupe de résistance non-violente | Instance locale de médiation | Organisation économique d'une communauté villageoise | Organisation économique de femmes | Favoriser l'intervention d'un tiers pour sauver la paix | Etablir le dialogue entre les acteurs et les partenaires de la paix | Kenya

Réf. : The film is produced by Responding to Conflict and Coalition for Peace in Africa, December 30, 2002. It can be viewed here : [[a[][ ]]]

Langues : anglais

Type de document :  Vidéo

The Wajir Story is a precious resource in teaching conflict resolution and in understanding the power that different actors can mobilise in conflict. While women play a marginal role in official politics in Somali areas, they have a key role in society. In the documentary they realise and use this potential. This file shows how the documentary can be used for learning to analyse conflicts, in particular through distinguishing different stages of escalation.

The Wajir district in the North-Eastern Province of Kenya has to deal with scarce resources of water and vegetation. The population is in its majority formed of nomadic pastoralists who need extensive areas to move with the animals in search for pasture and water. The conflict potential of the region is extremely high because of the rivalry between the different clans for controlling and using those scarce natural resources. The society is traditional, the leading role is played by the elders, the so-called wise men. The district is highly underdeveloped, lacks drastically in infrastructure, education and economic development. Unemployment figures among young people are very high. In these conditions the Wajir Story plays itself out.

The story can be used to teach about:

  • The analysis of different stages of conflict;

  • The role of women in conflict transformation.

The British conflict resolution organisation “Responding to Conflict” developed an analytical model called “the Stages of conflict” to distinct the different levels of intensity of a conflict and the communication patterns that go with it. The model is particularly useful to situate a current moment of a conflict in a longer time frame. It helps to choose an appropriate moment for action. The model makes a difference between the following stages:

  • 1. Build-up

  • 2. Confrontation

  • 3. Crisis

  • 4. Outcome

The events that make up the Wajir story can be described in these stages.

Pre-conflict stage – conflict causes and aggravation elements:

  • a. Internal/local cause: In 1991-1992, a terrible drought hit the region, which led to a lost of about 80 % of the livestock. Hundreds of people hungered and were displaced.

  • b. Internal/national cause: In 1992 were organised political elections which changed the political balance in the district.

  • c. External/international cause: A huge number of refugees from Ethiopia and Somalia, who were fleeing the political chaos there, came to Wajir and along with them weapons entered into the district too. The result: the Kenyan administration declared the state of emergency.

Crisis :

  • (conflict explosion) The conflict explodes in December 1992 after the political elections. Fierce fighting irrupted into many parts of Wajir. The situation was critical: high jacking of vehicles, robberies, destruction of business, murder, raping of women.

  • (peak) By late ‘93 insecurity reigned over the entire district, the violence escalated, all activities have stopped, the NGOs have retired and fear and mistrust spread over all levels of society. At this stage of maximum mistrust and insecurity, the communication between communities was totally broken and on the market place the clans made no more business with one another.


The conflict causes were mainly local and therefore needed to be addressed locally – to this conclusion came a group of women from the district who established a committee which tried to enter in contact with the women from different clans on the market place, in order to re-establish the communication between them. The committee targeted women in the first place because of their major role they traditionally play in peace and conflict situations in Kenya.

The Wajir Women Association for Peace was born.

  • One of its first successes: it succeeded in stopping conflict in the market place by talking to women.

  • Further step: act on the top, talk to community leaders, that is to the elders and convince them to act for peace negotiations. One of the men became the spokesman of the women association. He convinced the other clan leaders to initiate negotiations between representatives of clans. Several meetings took place.

  • The representatives of clans together with the peace committee met representatives of the local parliament (the peace initiative reaches the public authorities).

  • A common declaration was adopted which stated guidelines for the return of the peace as well as the creation of investigating teams formed by elders of each clan in order to search on committed crimes and to help in the process of justice. This way, those teams had the required legitimacy, that is the public trust in their judgements.

Post-conflict stage and taken actions for a sustainable peace:

  • Local conflicts still rise. Bandits steel animals. Efforts are made to capture and to judge them, all clans cooperated in order to prevent new escalations of conflict.

  • More meetings between clans have been organised. The egg is used as a symbol of trust and peace. A relative stable situation is reached in the region. There is no other conflict between North and East.

  • An annual festival to celebrate peace was created. On this occasion funds for peace groups were collected, so that people could feel that peace really belongs to them, that they have the decision power over the peace reconstruction. Local businessmen were shown how important peace is for their business.

  • In 1994: initiatives to engage youth in the peace process are organised. Groups are formed, they attend to peace meetings, express themselves, are listened. They play a major role in the peace keeping process. Social activities for youth are organised, such as football matches. The young people get technical education and are employed by the government or by other local businesses.

  • Ex militia leaders are identified and negotiations have taken place in order to convince their men to give back the guns. A program for the peaceful return of guns was successfully conducted. Amnesty for those who returned guns was granted.

  • Seminars and preaching tours were undertaken all over the district by Christian and Islamic leaders.

  • May ’95: The Wajir Peace and Development Commission is formed. Representatives of all groups (elderly, youth, women, district security committee, members of Parliament, members of NGOs) gathered in order to discuss solutions to prevent any further escalation of conflict.

  • Education campaigns, leadership trainings for the clan leaders towards peace keeping and conflict resolution courses for the community leadership were organised in order to change people’s thinking, help them identify pre-conflict indicators (such as rumours) and make the peace process effective.


The situation is relatively stable in the region. Despite all this, the community members are aware that in order to achieve a sustainable peace, permanent efforts are demanded for maintaining the reconciliation between the various clans within the district. An example of a potential conflict situation was the raping of a young girl by a member of a clan that lost the political election. This could have rapidly taken a political dimension if the women committee had not rapidly intervened. They helped the community to see that this was a local incident that concerned everybody, so that there was no need of either revenge or political considerations. The criminal was to be flashed out and punished – this was all that needed to be done.

As recent, a source of worries is the unstable situation of the neighbouring countries as well as the districts. That led Wajir’s community members ask themselves how the peace process could be expanded to other regions, so that a more stable context could be reached, despite of moving populations and permanent changing factors.


  • This file has been written based on a contribution of Andréea Noiret within the framework of the course “Analysis of conflict” which is part of the master’s program “Coopération Internationale et Communication Multilingue” at the University of Stendhal in Grenoble. Claske Dijkema (Modus Operandi) developed and teaches the course.