Let’s explore possible ways to end cattle rustling, banditry

River Kerio in Kerio Valley

Armed men herd cattle near River Kerio in Kerio Valley on the border of Elgeyo-Marakwet and Baringo counties

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale highlighted in a tweet that in 2006, he moved a bill classifying cattle rustling as a capital offence punishable by death/life imprisonment.

Dr Khalwale further stated that Rift Valley MPs marshalled numbers and defeated the bill. That was seventeen years ago!

Following the recent deadly raids in Kerio Valley, Rift Valley leaders are now claiming that they are ready to support any piece of legislation that will help address cattle rustling and banditry. Would this solve the whole issue though?

Cattle rustling and banditry have been embedded in pastoralist culture. This makes it an issue that needs multiple solutions. While the legislation is a much-needed step in ending this, it is not the only needed step.

Livestock is vital for the survival of pastoralists. They use it for food, religious sacrifices, paying fines during settlements, paying the bride price and other uses.

It is also a measure of wealth and social status. Once young boys are initiated into manhood, they are expected to grow their wealth. Cattle rustling is an ancient practice that has seen new life breathed into it in recent years due to capitalism.

Cattle rustling

The commercialisation of cattle rustling exacerbated this mess. Stolen livestock is usually sold as legitimate cattle in the market. This is often said to be controlled by the political class.

These are the same people who will then turn around and condemn the practice. Since their names are not said out loud in public, they get away with this doublespeak. The money they dish out to people also acts as protection for them.

This has morphed into organized crime as the government watches on. Making it a capital of-fence might not deter raiders if they are not educated about or directly affected by the conse-quences. Raiders already move within our borders and even cross to the neighbouring countries in full view of the law.

Videos of them have surfaced now and then as they carry on with their looting unperturbed.

It is said that these raids and banditry are funded by powerful people. Would these same people not make it impossible to catch or sentence the offenders? Is this not the same country where people walk out of open and shut cases with a smile on their faces and a handful of lawyers in tow? How would legislation make this any different?

These are the same leaders who will low-key fight development in these areas. They are aware that any kind of sustainable development will lead to the people being enlightened.

This will make them less gullible to carry out orders from these selfish leaders. The people would be less willing to put themselves in danger for the benefit of a few people. This would inevitably end small arms dealing that equips the raiders which would then end the commercialization of raids.

The last two decades have seen the birth and growth of warlords who have turned the cultural practice into a commercial enterprise.

This was done strategically by providing arms, militarization and re-warding the youth who would participate in banditry. The promise of quick wealth with no consequences drew them in and has kept them in this practice over the years.

Targeted community

These young men are trained on how to spy on the targeted community. Once they learn all they can, they go back to their group and plan out attacks. Arms are readily provided by known war-lords. When the attacks happen, even women and children are not spared. This has led to an unknown loss of human life. This has made weapons a vital part of a modern-day pastoralist as no one wants to be caught off-guard.

Consequently, this has promoted arms dealing in our country. Your community gang member knows where to easily access a firearm if need be. Easy access to arms is a direct threat to you as a citizen regardless of where you live in the country.

Wiping out culture is not ideal but it is necessary for the survival of the remaining people affected by the culture. It has to be a deliberate move by the government to end it. Government officials should be put in charge of dealing with this as they will not politicise the moves.

We need to accept that not all things in this country need a political angle or voice. While politics is a vital part of the running of the country, it is not the only aspect.