What you need to know:
- Despite the remote villages in Tiaty being profiled by government authorities as hideouts for bandits, Nation.Africa has learnt that most of these areas have very few or no chiefs' offices.
- Locals claim that some of the chiefs are rarely seen in the locality, while others take up to four months to appear, or even longer, often at public barazas or meetings organised by the national or district governments.
For years, the sub-counties of Baringo North, Baringo South, Tiaty East and Tiaty West have faced a recurring insecurity threat that has hampered development and led to the closure of social amenities, including schools and hospitals.
Tiaty has been particularly prominent among the criminal hideouts targeted by government security operations.
It is believed that after cattle raids, criminals flee to their hideouts with their 'loot', killing and displacing people from their homes.
Despite the remote villages in Tiaty being profiled by government authorities as hideouts for bandits, Nation.Africa has learnt that most of these areas have very few or no chiefs' offices.
This forces administrators to travel many kilometres to serve their people.
In the Silale and Tirioko wards of Tiaty East and Tiaty West, some chiefs work from the sub-county headquarters in the towns of Chemolingot and Tangulbei, more than 70 kilometres away from their places of work.
Locals claim that some of the chiefs are rarely seen in the locality, while others take up to four months to appear, or even longer, often at public barazas or meetings organised by the national or district governments.
Of the six places in Tirioko ward, for example, only Ng'oron and Akoret have chiefs' offices. The chiefs of Kapau, Lokis, Tirioko and Kapunyany have been working from their homes for years.
The provincial administration is on record accusing the Tiaty sub-county chiefs of failing to tame the perennial menace because they live far from their jurisdictions.
In Tiaty, it is not surprising to find a chief who lives in Chemolingot but is supposed to be working in Silale, more than 70km away. Such figures rarely show up at their places of work and are well protected by their 'godfathers'.
"How can they know when there is an attack, where the criminals have fled to or who they are if they don't live near the people? In most cases, you even find that these chiefs have lost touch with the locals and cannot get information from them," he said.
Elizabeth Lowiale, a resident of Nasorot in Tiaty West, told Nation.Africa that chiefs from the area operate from Nginyang and Chemolingot areas. As a result, most cases in the area are resolved by village elders.
"It is the rule of the jungle here. There is no law and order. We have a chief, but he operates from the village of Lochokia, more than 30 kilometres away. It can even take more than four months to see him here," she tells Nation.Africa.
"Although the area is perceived as a hideout for criminals, there is no single chief's office. His counterpart from Napukut operates from Nginyang, more than 80km away," says Ms Lowiale.
Most cases, including serious ones such as murder or defilement, are resolved in kangaroo courts by elders. Sadly, most are swept under the carpet because the perpetrators are not apprehended.
"Who do you report to if the chief lives many kilometres away? Many locals here are also illiterate and don't have mobile phones to communicate, and the erratic mobile network is another big challenge," the local adds.
A year ago, former Rift Valley commissioner Maalim Mohammed raised concerns about bandits roaming freely in villages and terrorising locals, but administrators deployed to the hotspots had never identified or named them for arrest.
"The bandits who kill and steal from neighbouring communities live with the people and we do not understand why the chiefs have not given their names to the authorities," Mohammed said at the time.
Tirioko Ward Rep Sam Lourien is concerned about the current situation.
He says this has led to very high crime rates, including retrogressive cultural practices such as outlawed female genital mutilation and cattle rustling, especially in the remote villages, because there is no authority to tame the vices.
"For many decades, many chiefs in my ward have been working from their homes because they do not have offices. Some even work far away from their areas of jurisdiction, including Kolowa, Chemolingot and Nginyang towns, dozens of kilometres away. How are these state officials supposed to know what is happening in the villages if they are not there all the time, considering that these are areas plagued by perennial banditry, among other ills," asked Lourien.
A former chief in Tiaty, Carlos Kipkoikat, expressed concern that he had been working from home for more than five years because he did not have an office to work from.
"Many of the people in the remote villages are illiterate and most of them do not have mobile phones. Some don't even know who their chiefs are, and the few who can get in touch are those with phones or from nearby villages," he told Nation.Africa.
"The area is also vast, which means some of them don't even know if there is a government, and that is why there have been cases of banditry since time immemorial," Mr Kikoikat said.
This has made it easy for criminals to hide in remote villages where they know that no authority can track them down or catch them after they have committed crimes.
"For a chief, it is very difficult to track down such individuals when you are working far away from your workplace or home," the former administrator said.
The threat of rampant insecurity has also been exacerbated by political interference, with political leaders influencing the recruitment of chiefs to serve their interests.
It is also feared that some administrators aid and abet the age-old practice of cattle rustling by collaborating with criminals and shielding them from arrest.
In one scenario, a long-serving chief from Silale, an area believed to harbor criminals, operated from Loruk village, on the border of Tiaty East and Baringo North, nearly 100km away. Two chiefs from Tiaty were also previously in the area, allegedly 'protecting' suspected armed bandits in the constituency.
The two chiefs were linked to an attack by bandits in Mochongoi, on the border of Baringo and Laikipia counties, where six police officers and four pastoralists were killed and several others injured in a fierce gun battle.