Banditry, rustling disrupt the development agenda

Security personnel from Turkana County pursue bandits who had stolen animals in Suguta Valley.

Security personnel from Turkana County pursue bandits who had stolen animals in Suguta Valley.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Bandits and cattle rustlers are killing Kenyans in their hundreds, stealing livestock and other property and indiscriminately destroying infrastructure.

The insecurity in North Rift has led to the closure of schools, leading to a rise in illiteracy levels. The vice also has a massive economic cost as businesses have closed down or relocated due to the violence. Banditry has also dented the image of the country regionally and internationally, discouraging foreign investment and tourism. 

The banditry has necessitated a dusk-to-dawn curfew to facilitate a police-military joint security operation in the affected zones, as well as a three-day amnesty for the surrender of firearms in the hot spots, albeit with hundreds of lives too late.

This crime, which is exacerbated by cultural practices, has grown in size and violence and has morphed into inter-ethnic and inter-communal conflicts that have been further fueled by the proliferation of weapons, the growing sophistication of organised crime, scarce resources and the erratic climate.

The sustained bandit attacks and cattle rustling can be attributed to untouchable financiers and inciters who are further complicating its total eradication either through interrupting security interventions or by law.

The latter can be demonstrated in 2006 when a bill seeking to classify cattle rustling as a capital offence punishable by death or life imprisonment was lost after heavy rallying by some MPs. 

Cattle rustling used to be an acceptable way to restock herds decimated by drought and was a method of acquiring animals for dowry, a subtle form of wealth redistribution. But the cultural practice that was chaperoned by elders has become illegal wealth acquisition and lucrative cattle business.

Porous borders and trafficking in weapons have shepherded the traditional practice of livestock raids into this new form of organised crime that is banditry and cattle rustling for commercial gain and in some cases territorial expansion.

Besides, the injuring of seven police officers on patrol and the torching of two police vehicles in an ambush laid by bandits is sending the wrong message to the masses about the inability of the government to protect them. 

Lasting solutions to this banditry and cattle rustling menace call for the concerted use of both hard and soft power approaches. Such includes the ending of the vicious cycle of illiteracy has is being exploited by rogue politicians and traders.

Provision of services and infrastructure like heavy security, water, roads and other amenities will a long way in cultivating a sense of inclusivity among the people thus curing the feeling of neglect by the government and the need to protect themselves. The setting up of a buffer zone by the military along the Turkana-Marsabit boundary is likely to end insecurity in the region. 

Adoption of the Mifugo Protocol is the silver bullet to address this vice at regional, national and community levels. The inter-state legal framework will harmonise and strengthen police collaboration and joint strategies in East Africa to address crime.

Political goodwill and collaboration from the community will provide a community-led solution to this criminality which will consequently advance the government’s development agenda.

Mr Mugwang’a, a communications consultant. [email protected].