Discover Wajir County
Brief Overview of Wajir County
Wajir County, in the northeast quarter, skirted by the Kenya-Somalia border in the east, is mainly dwelled by the Somali tribes of Ajuraan, Degodia and Ogaden origin, among whom the wells and grazing rights are divided. At most times of the year the population is centred on the wells of Wajir, but during and after the rainy seasons the inhabitants, who are nomadic, are sparsely scattered over the whole area. That is to also say, Wajir is broadly an arid region: Its north-central region underlain by limestones and the remainder of the area a wide undulating plain. The vegetation is mostly dense low thorny scrub and dry open bush with isolated clumps of trees. Grey soils carry a similar profile to the limestones, but where black soils occur trees and scrub are often absent and the only vegetation is rough grass. Thicker scrub with low trees usually follow the dry stream beds.
The defining feature of Wajir County is its perceived and actual separation from the rest of Kenya, which is evidenced in the wide development gap and distance from the rest of Kenya. Furthermore, the hot and inhospitable nature of Wajir’s climate, marked by scotching and torrid heat in the dryer months, and which, in Wajir, is amplified by the strong reflection of the whitish surface further widens the dissociation. Wajir is a less travelled frontier and its unfamiliar landscapes, largely marked by endless featureless plains, little-known to the world. The 348 kms journey from Isiolo to Wajir could not be any less difficult if you consider that Wajir County has only 28 kms of tarmac roads, all within Wajir Town and only done in 2013. A trip to Wajir requires a strong-minded intrepid and some finicky driving along an unrelentingly jerky road that’s eager to break most cars.
Wajir Town, its capital and largest town, is considered to be the major business and administration centre of north-eastern Kenya and is connected to Isiolo, Moyale, EI Wak, Malka Murri and Bardera (in Somalia) by road. Propitiously, there is an international airport at Wajir; the quickest way to get there. Even so, Wajir County is a treasure pile for many a history buff. And, the nostalgia of the bygone era is almost tangible, awash with relics of the British Empire and those of the corresponding battles with Italian-Somalia. Then, there’s the rich history of the Somali People, with their stirring culture and good humour, which is the highlight of Wajir (pronounced as Wajier by the locals). Livestock production is the backbone of the county’s economy with over 80% of the inhabitants directly or indirectly deriving their livelihood from livestock of camels, cows, and goats.
Salient Features of Wajir County
- County Number 08
- Area – 56,686 km2
- Altitude – 150 to 460 ms
- Major Towns – Wajir, Habaswein, Tarbaj
- Borders – Mandera, Isiolo, Marsabit, Garissa
Brief History of Wajir County
The insecurity at Wajir, for generations, was regularly plagued by instabilities along the Kenya-Somalia border, complex tenor of state failure and communal violence among the resident Somali clans. And to fan the flames, the Northern Province (which Wajir is quintessentially part of) became a closed district under the Outlying Districts Ordinance, Proclamation No. 89, of 1925. To redress the segregation, the Northern Frontier District (NFD) sought to secede from Kenya in 1950. This did not sit well with the newly independent Government of Kenya, and in many ways coaxed the esoteric Shifta Wars of 1960’s and 70’s. That led to even further marginalization of the NFD for decades. After the Shifta Wars drew to a dull close, the clans and sub-clans of Wajir became the new cleavages of social tension and conflict, with each clan waging at least one historic affray. Amidst all their conflicts, the Somali People of Wajir established singular and customary ways to resolve conflicts. In the 1990’s, a collection of local non-state actors, uniquely led by a women’s market group, set up an umbrella movement that came to foster a decorous sort of peace and security across the entire Wajir.