Changing tack? Government roots for education to transform restive North Rift region

Kithure Kindiki

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki (third left) with West Pokot leaders during a security meeting at Sarmach on June, 8,2023. 

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

In what appears to be a new strategy to tackle the menace of insecurity in the restive North Rift region, the government has announced compulsory education for all children in the troubled areas.

The government has launched an insecurity operation dubbed Maliza Uhalifu North Rift aimed at restoring the region's elusive peace.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has now announced the construction of five new model boarding schools for children in Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, West Pokot and Turkana counties.

"The government will immediately establish five inter-community schools as part of an education-for-peace initiative. The five schools — Dira, Todo, Tuwit, Lomuke and Chepchoren — will provide compulsory education to pupils in the region," the CS said while speaking at Dira in Baringo county.

"By learning together, children from different communities will help create a new generation that will foster long-term peaceful and harmonious coexistence and end years of cross-border hostilities that fuel insecurity."

Prof Kindiki, who held a series of meetings in Baringo, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties on Friday, said the projects, which will start later this month, will be constructed by the military, assisted by the National Youth Service (NYS).

The government has carried out several security operations in the region in the past with little success.

The operations have briefly pacified the region, only for the killings to resume after the operation, and now the CS says multi-agency security officers, including KDF soldiers, will be permanently stationed in the troubled area.

The government said the ongoing operation will be conducted in phases to ensure sustainable peace and development.

15 schools

"Fifteen schools that were vandalised and destroyed by bandits here in Tiaty Constituency will be rebuilt. All pupils must go back to school and the government will ensure that they are safe for uninterrupted learning," the CS said.

Prof Kindiki also said teachers from the local community will be given priority to ensure they change the mindset of the children, and that all learning institutions in the restive region will be brought under the school feeding programme.

"I am not here as a tourist but to ensure that all the criminals who are raining terror in the region are dealt with. Those criminals still hiding in the bush should know that their days are numbered," he said at another peace meeting in Chesegon on the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.

The CS said another military camp would be set up on the border at Chesegon to ensure that the police were reinforced in dealing with the bandits, as well as increasing the number of police reservists.

"All illegal weapons must be surrendered voluntarily, otherwise we will take them by force according to the law. This region should abandon the age-old culture and move on with the development of the region," he said.

"Any leader from either side of the political divide who incites the public to commit crimes and all those who finance crimes will be tracked down and brought to justice to the full extent of the law. I am not issuing an empty threat, but we will not tolerate any form of incitement," he said.

Development plans

At the same time, the government announced development plans for the region, including irrigation and road projects.

"Along the Kerio River, we will set up irrigation projects that will bring together people from all communities so that when they work together, peace will prevail. We will also allocate more funds for new irrigation projects in an operation called Development for Peace Initiative," he said.

At Liter Catholic Church, the CS held a closed-door meeting with elders from the Pokot and Marakwet communities.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich, MPs William Kamket (Tiaty), Peter Lochakapong (Sigor) and Elgeyo Marakwet County Commissioner John Korir, and his Baringo and West Pokot counterparts Kutwo Sangolo and Apollo Okello respectively attended the peace meetings.

Mr Kamket called on the government to arrest any leader inciting violence in the region.

"If the Kenya Kwanza government doesn't pacify the region for good, no other government will. We need peace and any leader who may be behind insecurity in the region," he said.

Mr Rotich said he was optimistic that peace would be realised in the ongoing operation against insecurity, which includes development projects.