Isiolo County is located in the geographical center of Kenya covering an area of about 25,700 square kilometers and has eight neighboring counties namely; Marsabit to the North; Wajir to the East; Garissa to the South-East; Tana River; Kitui and Meru to the South; Laikipia to the South-West and Samburu to the West. Isiolo has three sub-counties namely, Isiolo, Merti, and Garbatulla. Isiolo town which is the headquarters of the county located close to its county border to Meru County. The county constitutes of three sub-counties, namely, Isiolo composed of Wabera, Bulla Pesa, Ngaremara, Burat and Oldonyiro wards; Merti composed of Chari and Cherab wards and Garbatulla composed of Kinna, Garbatulla, and Sericho. The county has Isiolo North and Isiolo South Constituencies.
Scofield Associates team conducted a minimalistic research study to understand the confluence of issues affecting Isiolo county from the lenses of conflict management. The participants for this study included representatives from 16 stakeholder organizations working in Isiolo country. This study is part of a more extensive engagement to assist Isiolo county in developing a Preventing Violent Extremism Index (PVE-I) that will be holistic and provide opportunities to understand the needs of the community. For this to be achieved, a mapping of interventions needed or being implemented vs. the outcomes of the activities based on stakeholder feedback is required. Therefore, this study was looking at providing options for the challenges mentioned above by specifically;
- Understanding the needs of the community and the problems they face
- Analyzing the organization’s theories of change
- Understanding definitions of success and its measurements
- Drawing a “Problem to Solutions Matrix” for Isiolo county
This study is purely qualitative with most of the respondents taking part in one on one participatory engagement. The research team utilized purposive sampling to ensure a representation of organizations working within Isiolo and focusing efforts on issues of conflict management. To avoid over-reliance on one organization or the other, the research team tried to ensure that the target population had at least two representatives in the sessions for the discussions. The session for data collection was divided into two; Morning session, that majorly concentrated on the need to understand the problems in the community, theory of change, how organizations work and how organizations measure success in the community, and the afternoon session that utilized participatory systemic inquiry to probe further on the themes developed and progress using the “Problem to Solutions Matrix.” The morning session was constituted through the use of a structured questionnaire that would later provide the theme for the participatory systemic inquiry discussions in the afternoon.
One of the significant challenges of qualitative research work is that of generalization. To deal with this challenge, the research team tried to use triangulated data to support the findings from the two sessions. It was done through analysis of reports, online clippings and another media documentation available. The primary bias was that of sample size. The research team may not have had a “full” representative sample of the organizations working in the community. However, to deal with this bias, the questions focused on some of the shared challenges, individual organizations analysis and measurement frameworks and the “Problem-to-Solution Matrix,” for the community.
From the feedback in the first sessions, it was evident that there was also a gap showing limited or no relationship between interventions developed to the problems facing the community, the assumptions and the outcomes are generalized. However;
- The definition of themes provided an investment path for development partners and government on issues affecting Isiolo county.
- Stakeholder analysis indicating the areas of work also showed the expertise of different organizations working in Isiolo County.
- The question of reach in programming is usually a tough one and implementing partners struggle to use limited resources for a large area. The location mapping also indicated where the different stakeholders were working in Isiolo
- There is a gap in the partners on the terminology of use and standards of consensus on the constitution of success in the community. However, the primary definition of success by the stakeholders in the community provides a roadmap for measuring progress in different activities in the community. Success in Isiolo is defined as Availability of Feedback, engagement on issues and acceptance to change.
- As a measurement, indicators that showed the links through the reach of projects, level of participation and adaptation in the community provided a roadmap for resilience building which is an essential attribute on sustainable programming.
The second session majorly focused on the problem to solution matrix through a participatory systemic inquiry approach. The research team, therefore, did not assume the drivers to violent extremism but utilized participatory systemic inquiry to move from Problem-to-Solution. This process provided stories that showed the links between various conflict issues in the community and violent extremism. Also, based on the link analysis, the participants were also able to look at some of the solutions to the challenges highlighted. The analysis of the data was based on a review of;
- The most notable narratives from the feedback of the community
- Clear linkages of the challenges in the community
- Triangulation of the challenges to available data.
The matrix above indicated that violent extremism in Isiolo was as a result of Radicalization, Recruitment, and Resilience. More importantly, radicalization was as a consequence of; disappearances in the community, police brutality and profiling, drug abuse issues, geographical vulnerabilities, peer pressure and limited religious knowledge. Discussions around recruitment indicated the processes involving the brokers in Isiolo, the spaces, the actors involved with the narrative that women and mothers topped the list, and medium used; that included audio-visual materials from Aboud Rogo. Finally, the component of resilience indicated that Isiolo lacks place attachment as a result of the atrocities committed to various communities, does not think that the government is doing enough due to in-action from law enforcement, has limited or no avenues to communicate and discuss issues, and the family system is a mess.
As indicated, this study is not conclusive but a starting point for more engagement and an eye opener to opportunities for investment on issues of conflict management and countering violent extremism. It also used triangulated data to point to areas of interest and hotspot for targeted research and programming. The report also indicates Violent Extremism is dynamic and requires involvement from different players/actors. Comprehensive policies that can help in fighting the said vice should be developed through a collaborative effort from government agencies, international partners and CBOs are key in determining whether the measures put in place bear fruits or not. Policies should therefore not be a blanket instead should be tailored in context of the challenges being faced in each area. The solutions should most importantly come from the community in the specific area. By so doing, root causes of ‘the’ problem and not ‘a’ problem would be solved. Research should be done appropriately so that it becomes a solution and not part of the problem. This will be achieved by knowing the problem from the onset that will give a better clarification of the issue at hand and hence be in a better position to counter it. As part of the greater index development process, this report provides themes that will be tested in the field for baseline data.
Part of this report was used to advise the development of the Isiolo County Action Plan
View interactive data analysis of the report here.