This paper examines the role of customary pastoral institutions in managing conflicts. It indicates thatintra‐ethnic conflicts can be managed customarily because of shared norms attributed to the social proximity and cultural homogeneity, whereas managing inter‐ethnic conflicts goes beyond the capacity of elders' council exercising customary law. The introduction of ethnic‐based federalism and historical political relations between different ethnic groups has weakened customary institutions in managing inter‐ethnic conflict. Using elders as community representatives in the formal system has negatively affected them because of community mistrust where they believe that ‘state elders’ are loyal to the state than to the community. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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