State declares banditry ‘existential threat’

Kithure Kindiki

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki addresses a security meeting at Maurus Academy in Chesongoch, Elgeyo Marakwet County, on January 3, 2022.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has declared banditry an ‘existential threat’ and promised even tougher measures to address the vice.

Speaking in Arabal, Baringo County on Saturday, Prof Kindiki vowed that the government will put tougher measures to end the runaway insecurity in the North Rift which for years has affected learning.

He said the government will pursue groups and individual accountability for the violence that has claimed hundreds of lives and stunted socio-economic development in the region for decades.

“The government has declared banditry an existential threat to our country's future. We are going to move in and apply every human resource and weapon we have. We will get out all the armoury; we will go by land, we will go by air, we will follow them to wherever they go and we are going to smoke them out of the caves and the forests,” said Prof Kindiki.

He assured residents of counties hard hit by the incessant retaliatory banditry attacks that learning in their schools will not be affected since the government is now deploying possible responses to ensure permanent normalcy.

“We have visited one of the schools where normalcy is gradually returning. I want to assure you that all the other schools affected will be reopened without exception, and they will never be closed again,” he said.

The State, he said, will pull all the stops, including the use of brute-force incapacitation, “to make banditry a costly undertaking for the perpetrators and sponsors.”

This comes as thousands of guns and several rounds of ammunition are being used by criminal gangs to commit retaliatory attacks in Kerio Valley as tensions between warring pastoral communities heighten.

The Kerio Valley region is occupied by the Pokot, Turkana, Marakwet, Tugen, Illchamus and Samburu communities who are entangled in prolonged armed conflict.

The government has launched several failed operations in the region in the past but the bandits have remained defiant, launching several attacks in parts of West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties. In the last week, the attacks have resulted in the killing of six people and the stealing of an unknown number of animals.

But the rough geographical terrain has proved the main challenge to the multi-agency security team involved in the crackdown against the criminals who take cover in caves in Silale, Nadome, Suguta Marmar and Tiaty hills.

Last month, President William Ruto directed immediate former regional coordinator Maalim Mohammed to ensure that all schools in Baringo North and Baringo South are re-opened by January 23.

“We will not allow schools to remain closed because we shall be losing a whole generation. I have asked the Regional Commissioner to use all means to ensure the closed schools are re-opened by January 23,” said Dr Ruto during a function in Baringo County.

Some of the schools in insecurity-prone areas have remained closed for a long time despite the deployment of armed security personnel to restore calm among warring pastoral communities.

They border conflict-prone Baringo South and Baringo North Sub-Counties where hundreds of families have been displaced by perennial attacks caused by cattle raids and boundary disputes.

The MPs from the North Rift have called for the establishment of a special department within the executive to deal with issues of banditry and cattle rustling in the volatile region.

Pointing out that innocent civilians were bearing the brunt of armed conflict, the leaders from Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Turkana counties said the government should formally declare the bandits to be terrorists.

Baringo Woman Rep Jematia Sergon urged the government to find out who are the funders and beneficiaries of cattle rustling.

“It is painful to appear helpless as a leader because everyone is looking up to you to provide solutions every time people are killed,” she said.