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Conflict Analysis and Resolution

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Subject: Conflict Analysis and Resolution

Based on conflict theory, discuss why intra and inter party unity in Kenya seems elusive

Discussion: Conflict within and between Rural and Urban populations in Kenya.

There is no peace within (intra) and between (inter) rural and urban populations in Kenyan. Within the discussions of this paper, rural populations will refer to persons living in geographic areas away from towns and cities with their characteristic lack of social amenities and infrastructural development. The urban population on the contrary refers to persons inhabiting towns and cities with benefits of improved social amenities and developed infrastructure.

Conflict refers to a “peaceless” coexistence within a society. Lewis Coser (1913-2003) defines conflict as “a struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources in which the aims of the opponents are to neutralize, injure, or eliminate their rivals.” He argued that intergroups and intragroups conflicts are part of social life defining relationships but not necessarily resulting in instability. Through conflict society can attain social change, come up with outstanding innovations and strengthen central powers in times of war.

The conflict theory explains causes of conflict; its containment and potential modes of resolving these conflicts. The human race has experienced different forms of conflict that manifest in both physical and psycho-emotional forms. The conceptual analysis of the conflict theory is not based on specific theorist but an amalgamation of perspectives from different scholars trying to argue out causes, manifestation, containment and resolution of conflict. An example is Karl Max’s perspective of material acquisition and the distribution of resources in the society as resulting into power dynamics that later become a significant cause of conflict.

In the focus of this paper, conflict will be discussed in terms of how it affects coexistence within rural and urban populations and how it interferes with the interaction of urban and rural inhabitants. It will attempt to explain the causes, management and resolutions of such conflict and why little success has so far been realized. Within this consideration conflict manifests in political, social, economic and ideological terms. Using both modern and traditional means of conflict resolution several attempts have been made to bring peace within and between these two parties with mixed results. Within the conflict theory, concepts such as incompatibility and competing interest, social change, class of ideologies, power relations and gender, authority, integration and resource distribution will be used to explain the manifestation and management of conflicts within and between these two groups.

Incompatible and competing Interests

Human beings strive to satisfy their needs and by their nature are individually and severally unique in the society in which they live. Each day people struggle to eke a living out of existing resources within their environment using skills and capacities within their means. In so doing they encounter situations of conflict. The uniqueness of people and their struggles to meet their needs create incompatible scenarios among them and at time as they realize they are competing for similar resources, opportunities, prestige and relations.

Rural and urban populations struggle for access to scarce resources within and without their geographical boundaries. The rural folk struggle to maximize its benefits and bring both social and economic change among its lot. In their struggle to access these resources they are privy of the power of equal representation at decision making levels both at the grassroots and in national decision making tiers. They seek greater autonomy at the grassroots and self rule especially on matters of local relevance and significance. They know that if they significantly take part in national leadership positions, they stand a better chance of influencing governance structures and policies that will address their needs. To achieve this they strive to bring political change where they will elect their own to represent them in leadership of the country both at the local and national levels.

The rural and urban population have equal needs and desires for power and dominance. However the urbanite is privileged to access better education, more resources that make them appear to have more diverse needs and power. The urban population has acquired modern education that has positioned them strategically for positions of leadership and is therefore in a better position to influence decisions at higher levels. This privilege has provided access to more property, wealth and power for the urban dweller as compared to the rural inhabitants.

Conflicts arising from within and between ruralites and urbanites are a result of competition for scarce resources and limited opportunities to hold power. With intense competition arises conflict between these groups. In the rural areas inhabitants continually struggle to get the most out of natural resources around them like land, forests, water bodies and other manmade resources availed by the government. In their struggle to get the most of these resources intra-party conflicts arise and cause disharmony in their society. Such conflicts are usually resolved through traditional conflict resolution methods and local administrative structures.

The rural folk already have some good things but are very much aware of their potential to better their condition. Thus they struggle to exploit their latent potential to minimise or close the gap between what they have and the potential good. In doing so, they cause violence not only amongst themselves, but also with the urban rich folk. On the other hand, the educated urban group does not want to be lead by those they perceive to be less educated and therefore less informed. This conflict is increased by income inequalities which again increases inequality in power. The interest between these two groups is incompatible. They are competing over a scarce resource. These resources include power, land, wealth, leadership, prestige and other human needs either actual or perceived. The struggle to access the resources sometime is so intense that the resultant conflict is terminal in nature where the object of at least one side is to destroy the other. Each party to the conflict strongly believes that their position is right and jealously defends that position. The controversial Mungiki group in Central Kenya for example uses force, threat and actual killings to advance their interests. So unless there is equitable distribution of resource between and within these groups, they will always have divergent and competing interests. But distribution of resources equitably is always not easy to achieve. Understanding of resource and the need of a resource between and among these people may not be the same. To a maasai rural folk, owning several herds of cattle is more pleasurable and economically fulfilling than owning a big town house. This is contrary to the needs of an urban folk. Therefore the means of fulfilling their economic interest is at variance and most of the time antagonistic in nature.

Access to quality education, equitable resource distribution and the general definition of wealth between these two parties need to be addressed so that a common understanding of what resources should be availed to which group is addressed in totality. This intertwined dynamic makes the resolution of intra and inter-party conflicts between urban and rural populations elusive.

The conflict perspective views the law as a tool used by dominant groups, those that have the social, political, and economic power, to maintain their privileged position over subordinate groups. Dominant groups include the white race, the wealthy, and the politically connected. Subordinate groups include minority races, the poor, and the politically neglected. These subordinate groups pose a threat, and the dominant groups use the legal code to keep the subordinate groups from usurping their power. In the context of this paper, the urban inhabitants qualify as the dominat group because of their acces to resources while the poor rural populace is the subordinate group. Behaviors often adopted by members of the subordinate groups are often criminalized in society, while behaviors adopted by the dominant groups go unpunished.

Social change

Proponents of the modern conflict theory believe that the powerless in society always look for ways and means of changing the social order. In Kenya this struggle is spearheaded by the rural and the urban poor who believe they are disenfranchised and need to remedy their situation through dramatic changes in the social order. The typical traditional Africa society is one where social order is highly respected and recognised. It was a system where roles and behaviours of members of the society were expected to conform to a particular pattern with strong emphasis on social actions that are in conformity with the rules, values and expectations of the social system. Any action of a member of the society contributed to the maintenance of the social system as a whole and was not seen or perceived to be a cause of conflict. But where there was any form or nature of conflict, there were traditional ways or institutions for containing and resolving them. For example, among the Merus, most disputes relating to land and inter-clan rivalry were dealt with by the Njeru Ncheke council of elders. The Kaya elders in Coast Province were responsible for arbitrating in disputes within and between members of their community. Even in commercial set-ups, competitive conflicts between buyers and sellers were settled through bargaining processes.

With the advent and introduction of monetary economy in Africa by the Western Countries and the subsequent adoption of capitalistic economy, our traditional social systems started to die or be questioned by the very subject that it was meant to guide. The advent of Christianity and Muslims religions which replaced the African religion significantly changed the social structures in Kenya. The introduction of formal education has enabled many Kenyans to acquired new perspectives of looking at things. They are interrogating the efficacy of the traditional social order in the context of global village in which Kenya is an integral part. On one hand, the urban elites, where the effect and impact of formal education is highest, are at the forefront in questioning and sometimes outrightly rejecting the supposedly strong traditional social systems that bind the people. And on the other hand, the rural folks who are supposedly the gatekeepers of tradition and culture are advocating for the preservation of the latent cultural practices. Each party in this social-economic pull and push strongly believe that their position is the right one which must be respected and preserved. The nature of conflict here is rather continuous and even necessary in the fast changing world. These two groups are dynamic in nature. They interact with the rest of the world. They influence and are also influenced by the environment around them and therefore should not be expected to be ever united and to have peace throughout their coexistence.

Class of Ideologies

Certain members of society, whether rural or urban, see conflict not as abnormal and transitory, but rather as permanent and even necessary. According to this point of view, scarcity in itself is enough to instigate conflict as people in any group try to access and amass scarce resources, at the expense of the others. There are indeed many positive aspects of conflict including Lewis’ view of stimulating innovations and leading to social change. It is not conceivable to have a conflict-free world as through conflict many countries of the world are free today. The French revolution and the liberation struggles across the African continent helped these countries to achieve certain levels of peace and freedom. Human existence and life is a combination of elements of cooperation and rejection, competition rather than consensus, dominance rather than co-existence. So to contemplate inter and intra party unity between and within rural and urban groups in Kenya would defy this ideological position and indeed deny the group members any benefit that can be directly or indirectly be attributable to the consequences of potential conflict between them.

The segregation of society into rural and urban populations has put power in the hands of the urban elites with political power to go with it. With this kind of power, the rural poor are denied the opportunity to access national resources that are controlled by the central government in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi. In response to level of disenfranchisement intense pressure and advocacy from the representatives of the rural folks, has forced the national government to formulate special policies focusing on the needs and wants of the rural people such as the decentralization of resources to the local levels through various programs such as Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and Local Authority Transfer Fund (LATF). But to ensure that they do not lose control of the devolved funds, and to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the managerial skills of the rural folk, the urban folk dominates the management of these funds under the pretext that they are well educated, well trained to provide prudent management of the resources and accessible to the best systems and infrastructure. This opens another point of ideological differences between these parties.

The rural folk contend that they have the requisite skills to manage these resources without the intervention of the urban person. They argue that even with their perceived lack of relevant management skills, they are successful in managing communal activities such as church tithes and the various activities under the umbrella of women group with minimal misappropriation of funds. The ideas of the elite and urbanite, the well educated and the propertied will always prevail in any socio-political debate. It does not, however, mean that their ideas are always right but because they have the economic means to support them; their wish will always become the wish of the majority. The well educated urbanites see the rural and less educated person as making attempts to intrude into their economic tuff. The urbanite consciously and sometimes unconsciously makes every effort to block the rural person from realizing their potential purely on ideological differences and to protect their power. The less educated, the illiterate and the poor who form the bulk of the rural folk will then have a conflict with the elites purely on ideological differences. Until the fundamentals of these ideological differences are resolved, very little progress can be achieved in terms of unity or peace within and between these groups. Kenya needs to embrace an ideological rebirth in order to bring unity within and between the “peaceless” rural and urban segments of its population. We must fuse the African indigenous and traditional mechanisms with the Western ones, a hybrid approach that marries the old and the new systems of conflict resolutions in order to address the roots causes of the ideological differences. As a result any attempt by the urban elite to prescribe cosmetic and stage-managed solutions which usually follow orders from above will fail.

The Kenyan government has instituted structures that address societal conflicts both within rural and urban societies and between them. These structures are tiered from the central government to the grassroots with the systems at the national level wielding more power. Chiefs within the administrative structure handle conflicts at the lowest level but are compelled to use mechanisms instituted by the central government from towns and cities. In this sense attempts by chiefs to bring about peace has not been successful as their subjects perceive them as agents of the urban elites. The chiefs fail as an interface between the urban and the rural as they are used as tools of oppression. They are in a dilemma as they seek to serve their subjects well and at the same time struggle to climb the economic, social and political ladder to join the urban elites who are their superiors. This makes any attempt to bring unity among rural populace and between rural and urban dweller unattainable. “The current methods of conflict resolution from the Americas, Europe and Australia impress us on account of their professional quality and their scientific underpinning by several social sciences. But we should not allow the appeal of such contemporary material to make us forget the time-tested methods which originated from African people.” (Malan, 1997:17)

Power relationship and gender issues

In the modern conflict theory, Wright Mills (1916-1962) outlines three forms of power including Authority (power that is justified by the powerless and which elicits their voluntary obedience), manipulation (power that is exerted on the powerless without their knowledge and which they still obey) and coercion (forceful power in which the powerless are provided with no option but to obey those at the top). This last form of power is what Randal Collins (1941), believes instigates conflict within a social system.

Communities in Kenya are predominantly patriarchal in nature. The male head of the household wields exclusive powers. He is the owner and administrator of the family property. The female gender has for a long time been considered the weaker sex and therefore the subordinate to the male gender. However with the advent of Western Education and values permeating both rural and urban areas, this point of view has been greatly challenged. This interference with the status quo has not come without consequences; constant wrangles between men and women over equality and equity with regard to access to resources is an everyday occurrence. This instability affects the rural population more than it does the urban. Therefore apart from causing intra-communal conflicts especially in rural areas, it has resulted in conflict of ideologies between the urban and the rural.


Our criminal law justice tends to favour the rich and the powerful urban elite with the resultant policies aimed at controlling and containing the rural poor. The standards of good behaviour and morality established through these systems perpetuate policy dominance of the urban population over the rural population. The aim is to create laws that separate the urban rich from the rural poor to stop them (rural poor) from stealing from the rich. No wonder minor offences such as stealing of a chicken are severely punished under our criminal justice or injustice than mega financial scandals such as Triton saga. The urban elite have immense influence over the rural poor in influencing and controlling social order. This arrangement creates ‘pyramid structure’ in which the elite dictates terms to the larger masses who happens to be the rural folks. They set administrative systems that favour those who have been in power to remain in power. These power games not only cause inter conflict between the urban and rural people, but also creates intra conflict within these groups. Any attempt to restructure the powers that create the conflictual authority systems can only succeed if the source of the power is addressed. Ascendancy to leadership in Kenya seems to be hereditary where certain families dominate the national leadership positions and are therefore capable of controlling the means of production (factories, raw materials, equipment, labour, technology etc). At these previlaged leadership positions, they make decisions that ensure maintenance of status quo. Unless there is drastic and real change of leadership that will not favour the rich few (bourgeoisie), any attempt to bring unity within and between these groups is elusive. But even within the rural population itself, respect for authority in leadership both at household and village levels is a source of conflict. Some educated members of this group question the blind respect for authority. For example, in most rural households, the man of the family wields too much power such that their word is taken to be law which must be obeyed and not questioned by the subject. This position is supported by the strong influence that traditional and cultural lifestyles and practices still has on the rural population. Members of this group who do not subscribe to the traditional and cultural beliefs find themselves in conflict with other members of the same group. But our culture is a melting pot of several colours. It has been fused and confused with the Western cultures that resulted in regrettable social disorder in our society. For example, the time-tested indigenous mechanisms of conflict resolution are no longer given priority in resolving conflicts. There is new realization that the indigenous methods of conflict resolutions is more effective than the conventional and modern methods particularly in resolving local conflicts such as cattle rustling between the Marakwet and the Pokot in Rift Valley. It is inconceivable to hope that at some time in the future, the African indigenous mechanisms of conflict resolutions will prevail over modern mechanisms. The nature and scope of conflict even at the village level is so complex and interwoven with external connections that bringing peace within the group may not be easily achieved.


Differences in race, ethnicity, gender, regions and even religions has made our society to be polarized along these lines. These have created class powers where each member of these groups feel that they are different from the others simply because of their affiliation to a particular race or religion. This means that if a particular race or ethnic group has better education, prestige and power, then it is considered a better race or ethnic community. To bring peace within and between rural and urban population in Kenya therefore requires not just the physical integration of the communities in Kenya, but a social integration where each member of these groups will start to see each other as belonging to the same society and therefore not necessary competitors in social purity. Another kind of conflict is that of gender which can manifest itself between a culture that is overly for men and another that is overly for women. Regions are another source of conflict. This type of conflict is brought about by different assumptions that people from one region have about those from another. For examples, the stereotypes such as the Kikuyus are thieves and Luos are proud people, can be a source of hatred that can cause conflict. Our society is so much divided along these parametric social values that integrating them to realize a peaceful co-existence may not be easy. In order to do so, we need to go back and start from where the colonialist planted the seeds of divide and rule that made us see each other differently. This is not easy however.

Economic basis of society and the division of resources.

There is huge economic imbalance between and within rural and urban population. The inequality in resource distribution has resulted in some kind of class stratification where the elite and rich members of our society pursue their needs and wants vigorously with little regard to the needs and wants of the other members of the society. Capitalistic economic order we follow dictates that resources shall be allocated within and between rural and urban population according to the free forces of demand and supply. There is a way in which the urban rich uses power to interfere with this economic dictate to ensure that they are not replaced in societal order of material wealth. But the rural poor are also pushing to ensure that they get a piece of the pie. This is therefore a point of conflict. In order to address this type of conflict, one must address economic inequality within and between these groups. To do this would require not just physical equitable distribution of resources, but address the root causes of this inequality. We need to address the inequality in our education systems so that we can truly build human capital at the rural base to champion their rights both at the local and national levels.

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...establishment of business schools in major universities. I bring to light four important developments: business ethics lectures at the University of California and Yale University, Leon Marshall's curriculum at the College of Commerce of the University of Chicago, and the William A. Vawter Foundation on Business Ethics at Northwestern University. Conflict resolution [electronic resource] Team Publications. (n.d). Amherst, Mass. HRD Press c2002. This article contains team building exercises. The exercises build strength and team cohesive functions. It teaches about working together and compromising in a team setting. It details conflict resolution tactics while defining conflict resolution in a modern world. Bibliography Annotated BADEN, D. (2014). Look on the Bright Side: A Comparison of Positive and Negative Role Models in Business Ethics Education. Academy Of Management Learning & Education, 13(2), 154-170. doi:10.5465/amle.2012.0251 This study explores how positive and negative role models (PRMs and NRMs) of business affect students' attitudes, expectations, and behavioral intentions relating to their future business behavior. A thematic analysis of student reflections based on their experience of material presented in their Business...

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