Raphael Mulaha KWEYU

Investigating the role of mediation in environmental conflicts in the Karamoja cluster of East Africa.

Fellowship : November 2022 to june 2023

Discipline(s) : Environmental science

Pays : Kenya


Raphel Kweyu’s residency seminar will be held on Monday, February 13, 2023:

Conflict Mediation among Pastoralists in Karamoja Cluster of East Africa

There is a growing need to resolve environmental conflicts that are caused by population dynamics, climate change and perceived natural resource shortages. Environmental conflicts are an integral part of natural resource governance regimes. Therefore, sustainable models of resource management must consider and incorporate widely accepted principles of good governance, such as intragenerational equity and participation, to resolve resource conflicts. Participation, for example, is based on the assumption that all relevant stakeholders have the knowledge and capacity to make decisions about the management of their resources. Traditionaly, communities had their own ways ‘indigenous knowledge’ of averting, managing, and resolving conflicts, which can today be incorporated in peacebuilding initiatives through co-designing approaches. Environmental Mediation involves voluntary natural resource negotiations involving a neutral third party. Natural resource negotiations are among the oldest ways of resolving conflicts in the society. In most African communities,  resource mediation was traditionally characterized by observation of  taboos, social hierarchies, communal ties, religious beliefs and other social artefacts.

Being inspired by the work of Elinor Ostrom on Governing the Commons (1990), this seminar explores the role of traditional customary practices in resolving resource conflicts among communities in the Karamoja cluster of East Africa. Elinor Ostrom argues that communities of individuals worldwide have relied on non-state/market institutions to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long periods of time. One weakness of the conventional resource governance models (such as state control or privatisation) is the marginalization of indigenous knowledge and customary practices in the decision making processes. Infact, these management régimes have been positioned as the ‘only’ alternative for managing the resource curse, a situation which has arguably contributed to intractability of conflicts in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Darfour region and the Niger Delta.

Within the East Africa’s Arid and Semi Arid lands (ASALs) of Karamoja, there are intermittent fighting of communities surrounding cattle rustling and fighting for water and pasture. It is clearly demonstrated among the Karamoja that conflict has been escalated to community violence over the past decades. This has been attributed to climate changes resulting in degradation of pasture and water systems as well as the involvement of external parties in the conflict such as business people, politicians and the international community . In the last decade, important mineral deposits have been discovered in the Karamoja such as oil at the Ilemi triangle (a region whose ownership is  disputed by Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia), Turkana County (Kenya) and Karamoja region (Uganda). With this development, the cluster is likely to face conflict escalations and also attract increased foreign attention. As a region marginalized in the development agenda by the respective states, the cluster of communities have depended on traditionally organized systems of resource management and intra/intercommunal conflict resolutions. Most of these systems have been ignored in science and knowledge and yet have the potential for informing policy and practice on managing the Karamoja syndrome as well as other ASALs of Africa and beyond.

This work attempts to position itself within the broader context of valuing variability (VV) in drylands. People and organizations working in African drylands have, over time, documented experiences that challenge the conventional stereotypical notion of despair and suffering in the ASALs. These expériences suggest that the drylands’ physical and human variabilities offer not only challenges but also opportunities. The VV concept proposes that dryland activities should be classified under productive systems and not coping systems as they have been carried out for many decades under self organized sustainable resource management régimes.

This seminar concludes that resource mediation as a traditional practice has the potential for re-emergence of the ‘African’ values in environmental management and governance. This discourse resonates with emerging trends of decolonization of  knowledge, science and practices in the global South.


Suggestions of the week :

Book : Governing the Commons de Elinor Ostrom (1990)

Movie : There’s a Zulu On My Stoep Featuring:Leon Schuster, John Matshikiza and Wilson Dunster (1993)



Research project: Investigating the role of mediation in environmental conflicts in the Karamoja cluster of East Africa.

There is growing need to resolve environmental conflicts that are occasioned by climate shifts and perceived natural resource scarcities. Some of these conflicts are trans-boundary and involve multiple ethnicities competing for shared spaces. One example of protracted and intractable conflict has been experienced in the Karamoja cluster in Eastern Africa. Whereas there is an avalanche of literature on conflict dynamics and sources, there is a growing need to explore extra-conventional conflict resolution mechanisms in Africa such as those that take a bottom up approach. Mediation, albeit a very old traditional practice, has often been ignored by formal conflict resolutions. This study proposes to investigate the role of mediation in resource and climate related conflicts in the Karamoja. The research will employ a mixed methods study design including desk review of archival data, analysis of satellite data on climate and natural resource dynamics and a case study based on qualitative field data collection. Data analysis will involve spatial modelling and correlations between conflict hot spots, climate and natural resource dynamics as well as themetazing and coding of qualitative data. The study findings will be useful in increasing our knowledge on indigenous knowledge and environmental conflict resolution.


Raphael Mulaha Kweyu is a Kenyan born mid-career researcher and university lecturer in physical and environmental studies. He has academic qualifications in both natural and social sciences having earned PhD in Environmental Governance and Management, Masters in Bio-geography and Bachelors in Biology, Geography and Business Studies. He possesses skills in Natural Resources Conflict Mediation, Geo-spatial Analyses and Qualitative Methods. He has taught several courses at the university level for over ten years and supervised postgraduate students in various disciplines. He has carried out research both collaboratively and individually in Forest related conflicts, Climate Change Adaptation in Arid and Semi-Arid zones, Indigenous Knowledge in Agricultural Practices and Environmental Health. He has carried out consultancy in different disciplines including the social dynamics of ground water management in Kenyan Dry-lands and qualitative data analyses for water and forest governance project in Kenya and Uganda. He is also a board member to the GreenBelt Movement in Kenya.


  1. Kweyu R. (2022). Communicating Cultural Identity in the Management of Forest Related Conflicts in Eastern Mau, Kenya. Conflict Resolution Quarterly. Accepted for publication in July 2022.

  1. Antwi-Agyei, P., Monney, I., Amaning Adjei, K., Kweyu, R., & Simiyu, S. (2022). Shared but Clean Household Toilets: What Makes This Possible? Evidence from Ghana and Kenya. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), 4271.

  1. Simiyu, S., Antwi-Agyei, P., Adjei, K., & Kweyu, R. (2021). Developing and Testing Strategies for Improving Cleanliness of Shared Sanitation in Low-Income Settlements of Kisumu, Kenya. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, tpmd201634. Volume 105: Issue 6. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-1634

  1. Muchuma K, Obando J and Kweyu R. (2021). Land Use/Land Cover Change Detection Using Geospatial Techniques and Field Survey on Chetambe Hills in Bungoma County, Kenya. Middle East Journal of Applied Science & Technology, Vol.4, Iss.1, Pages 80-93, January-March 2021

  1. Simiyu, S. N., Kweyu, R. M, Antwi-Agyei, P., & Adjei, K. A. (2020). Barriers and opportunities for cleanliness of shared sanitation facilities in low-income settlements in Kenya. BMC Public Health, 20(1), 1-12.

  1. Antwi-Agyei P, Dwumfour-Asare, B, Adjei, K, Kweyu, R, Simiyu, S. (2020). Understanding the Barriers and Opportunities for Effective Management of Shared Sanitation in Low-Income Settlements- The case of Kumasi, Ghana.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 4528; doi:10.3390/ijerph17124528.

  1. Kweyu, R. M, Thenya, T., Kiemo, K., & Emborg, J. (2020). The nexus between land cover changes, politics and conflict in Eastern Mau forest complex, Kenya, Applied Geography, 114, 102115.

  1. Ogutu FA, Kimata DM, Kweyu RM. (2020). Partnerships for sustainable cities as options for improving solid waste management in Nairobi city. Waste Management & Research. November 2020. doi:10.1177/0734242X20967735

  1. R. Kweyu, K. Kiemo, T. Thenya, J. Emborg & C. Gamborg. (2019). Spatial and Political Factors in Forest Resource Conflicts: The Eastern Mau Forest Case 1992– 2014, Society & Natural Resources, 32:11, 1276-1292, DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2019.1620899

  1. Kweyu, R. M. (2018). Finger Millet (Eleucine coracana) Yield Estimation: Integrating Remote Sensing and Farm Management Practices in Busia-Kenya, Africa Environmental Review Journal, 3(1), 143-152

  1. Kweyu, R., Thenya, T., Emborg, Jens & Kagombe, J., (2018). Forest Related Conflicts: Management and Capacity Building. Forest Resources Utilization, Livelihoods and Conflicts: Synthesis of research under the "Stabilizing Kenya Through Solving Forest Related Conflicts project" (STAKE) 2012-2016. Wahome, R., Thenya, T., Vindelov, V. & Emborg, J. (eds.). Lambert Academic Publishing, p. 90-91 (book chapter)

  1. Kweyu, R., Thenya, T., Emborg, Jens & Kagombe, J. (2018). Policy on conflict resolution in Kenya: Forest Related Conflicts - Management and Capacity Building. Forest Resources Utilization, Livelihoods and Conflicts: Synthesis of research under the "Stabilizing Kenya Through Solving Forest Related Conflicts project" (STAKE) 2012-2016. Wahome, R., Thenya, T., Vindelov, V. & Emborg, J. (eds.). Lambert Academic Publishing, p. 117-123 (book chapter)

  1. Kagombe,J, Kweyu, R and Thenya, T (2018). Capacity building on participatory Forest management & Conflict management Courses in Wahome, R, Thenya T, Vindelov V, Emborg J. (Eds). 2018. Forest Resources Utilization, Livelihoods and Conflicts: Synthesis of research under the “Stabilizing Kenya Through Solving Forest Related Conflicts project” (STAKE) 2012-2016 , Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic publishers. (Book chapter)

  1. Kweyu, R. (2017). Can Devolution assist Kenyan Marginalized communities to adapt to climate? CODESRIA Bulletin No.3&4 2017

  1. Barthelme J, Hunt K, Ngari L, Kipintoi W, Kweyu R, and Murimi S. (2009). Renewed Survey and Excavations in the Lake Magadi Basin Southern Kenya in Nyame Akuma, Bulletin of the Society of Africanist Archaeologists No. 71 June 2009