• Lemerele grew up shepherding livestock in a conflict-prone area, losing close relatives in some of the clan clashes
• He now saves lives by giving free talks to promote peace, working with elders, NGOs and religious organisations
Having been brought up in a feuding region, John Lemerele has witnessed bloody inter-clan clashes triggered by disputes over grazing land, water resources and politics.
And almost all his life, Lemerele, 38, wondered what it would take to end incessant fighting in Marsabit and the larger Northern Kenya region.
Lemerele vividly recalls all the instances when there were clashes, the most unforgettable being in 1994 and 1995. During these two attacks, close family members were shot and killed.
At the time, his father was a policeman, but officers were almost always overwhelmed by raiders and needed the support of locals to repel attacks.
Now a security expert, Lemerele endeavours to promote peace in his county, making pro-bono awareness presentations to schools, religious and community-based organisations and government institutions.
He is a Certified Protection Professional by the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) International, the world's largest membership organisation for security management.
“I aspire to become an advocate of peace and development in the country and in particular my beloved county of Marsabit,” Lemerele said.
His inspiration and passion to pursue a security career could largely be attributed to his early orientation in “asset protection”, while shepherding his parents’ livestock in Marsabit.
“A lot has changed when it comes to perceptions in security; it is no longer just about the G3 — guns, gates and guards. It is more about self-awareness,” he said.
Lemerele has since authored two impactful books in the field of security: NOTE, The Secret Technique to Situation Awareness, and a CPP Handbook — a guide to assist security managers become experts in security.
NOTE is an acronym for 'Noticing your surroundings; Observing things out of the ordinary; Taking action; and Exposing, telling and reporting'.
With over 14 years of field experience towards corporate safety and security management, Lemerele said he seeks to complement every peacebuilding effort in Marsabit.
He works closely with traditional elders, who for decades have endeavoured to promote peace work. Civil society organisations and the religious organisations, in particular the Catholic Church, have also been known to play an important role in peacebuilding initiatives at the local level.
The Catholic Church has taken note of his contribution to peace efforts and has since teamed up with him to promote harmonious coexistence between communities in northern Kenya.
Rev Josphat Njoroge of ACK Church, Mt Kenya South Diocese, said Lemerele has been participating in leadership programmes, including giving lessons not only in his area of security expertise but on spiritual matters as well.
“He has been a role model for many youth. I have been pleased to witness his spiritual and professional growth over time, and I pray and look forward to seeing it blossom further,” Rev Njoroge said.
The Outstanding Security Performance Awards (OSPA) has also taken note of Lemerele’s work and nominated him for an award later this year.
OSPA recognises and rewards companies and individuals across the security sector. Winning an OSPA is seen by many as one of the most prestigious accolades a company, team or individual in the security sector can be awarded.
An excerpt from his nomination reads: “He is an excellent trainer, able to demonstrate with clear cases and give impactful insights on critical points. Has the composure and presence of the role. Aware of new developments in the industry.”
Martin Okuthe, the president, Rotary Club of Hurlingham in Nairobi, termed Lemerele an asset to the club and the society in general.
“His recent presentation on situational awareness in an era of Covid-19, crime and terrorism based on his literary works and experience in security management, had a positive impact on members and guests of the Rotary Club of Hurlingham,” he said.
Brigadier General (Rtd) Ahamed Mohammed said the book NOTE has the potential to transform the lives of many.
“Read it deliberately, endeavour to understand every principle and apply it. Once you master the basics, which you can employ instantly, you will appreciate that you are the master of your destiny,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed is the ASIS International Kenya Chapter chairman (2019-22).
After high school, I chose to join the police service. I said to myself as a policeman, I would be able to deal with the issues I have experienced in Marsabit while growing upJohn Lemerele
Lemerele holds a Bachelor's degree in security management and policing studies from Kenyatta University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science in security and risk management at the University of Leicester, UK, and a Master of Science in organisational development at the United States International University-Africa.
“I would also wish to become a scholar in the field of security, contributing towards research-based alternatives to peace,” said the father of two.
He is the founder of Pan-African Shield College in Nairobi, which offers certificate and diploma courses in security matters.
“We encourage people, including security officers, who come from conflict-prone areas to enrol for our courses,” he said.
Lemerele joined the police service after high school, worked for three and a half years before leaving to provide security services to a financial institution.
He worked as a team leader before becoming head of security, overseeing work in Uganda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“After high school, I chose to join the police service, though I had the option of enlisting at the Kenya Wildlife Service. I chose the police because I figured KWS was just about animals and we do not have that much human-wildlife conflict in Marsabit,” he said.
“I said to myself as a policeman, I would be able to deal with the issues I have experienced in Marsabit while growing up.”
He is currently doing research on security in northern Kenya. He hopes to use the findings to advance his goals in the region.
CLANISM AND POLITICS
Lemerele said clanism and politics are largely to blame for insecurity in northern Kenya.
“Also, nobody is influencing the youth to change their course. Previous attempts to promote peace processes through community-led cross-border efforts have not lasted long,” he said.
He said raids are usually conducted by militia youths from across the clans. “Boundary disputes remain one of the motivations behind attacks, with the aim of pushing the minority groups out of disputed areas.”
To promote peace efforts, Lemerele gives talks in churches, makes presentations on terrorism and advises on how to respond to various attacks, giving locals examples of extreme scenarios.
Communities often get reinforcement from their kinsmen across the border in Southern Ethiopia.
“These cattle raids, inter-communal resource conflicts and banditry have been common as firearms are readily available among pastoralist communities,” Lemerele said.
Marsabit county borders Ethiopia to the north, Wajir county to the east, Isiolo county to the south, Samburu county to the southwest, and Turkana county to the west.
Arable farming is limited to only three per cent of the county’s total land area, predominantly in areas around Mt Marsabit. In the other remaining areas, pastoralism is the predominant form of land use.
The wave of violent conflicts has been mainly between the Gabra and Borana communities. The county is also home to the Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Burji, Dasanetch, Wata and Somali communities.
Lemerele said the government has indeed made significant progress in its war on terrorism. He said this has been made possible through monitoring and intelligence gathering.
“The action of the military in Somalia has also contributed to the decline but does not mean the threat is gone,” he said.
Lemerele currently works for a leading financial institution, which has a presence in Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda and Mozambique.
Edited by T Jalio