I just got back from another trip to northern Kenya to photograph the Grevy’s Zebra and the Samburu and Turkana tribes – two tribes who live with the Zebra and have been in violent conflict for years. It was a bit of an intense trip, and I have very mixed feelings about the area. There were many good experiences, but also many difficult ones. The Grevy’s Zebra Trust sees it’s mission as one of peace-building along with conservation, because they work with all of the tribes in the area equally. I’ll write more about that later.
The Moran are the warrior class from the tribes. In both tribes, the young men are sent out into the bush at a young age. From that point on for seven to fifteen years they are not allowed to eat in the presence of women. They are not allowed to enter the village alone. They are essentially outcasts. If they die while still a moran, even if it is in battle, their bodies are simply left in the bush. They are non-people until they come back in from the bush and marry.
The conflicts between the Turkana and the Samburu almost always involve cattle rustling or reprisals for cattle rustling. Up there an average female cow can cost $200 and a bull twice that. There have been recent cases of up to 200 cattle being stolen – that is the equivalent of $40,000. the reprisal for this was an attack which killed two young children who were shot in the back as they ran away. None of these thefts or killings are ever investigated or prosecuted, and in fact they are often encouraged by the elders who conducted raids when they were young. The difference in this area is that the youth now have guns. In the past, and further to the east, the moran typically only fought each other and only with traditional weapons. This area where the Turkana and Samburu meet is more violent and the town of Baragoi feels unsettled and aggressive.
This trip was in conjunction with the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, which works to conserve the endangered Grevy’s Zebra and to promote peace among the peoples who live in its range.