Retired colonel demystifies security operation in North Rift

Moses Kwonyike

Retired Colonel Moses Kwonyike during an interview at Marigat in Baringo County on February 20, 2023. He was speaking on the current security operation to flush out bandits in the North Rift.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

A week after the government announced the deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to parts of banditry-prone North Rift counties to execute a multi-agency security operation, residents of the region claim the soldiers and other security officers are yet to start flushing out the bandits from their hideouts.

Bandits are still launching attacks in some of the regions earmarked for the operation unperturbed by the heavy government machinery on the ground.

Locals are now getting anxious and want to see the operation rolled out in full force, saying nothing is happening on the ground.
But as Colonel (Rtd) Moses Kwonyike explains, an operation of such nature should be meticulous to avoid pitfalls and ensure success, which could explain the delay.

“A security operation involves proper planning, execution, and culmination. The operation is ordinarily preceded by social projects involving the community as security officers. This helps in gathering information,” described the retired soldier who is now a conflict scholar. 

In an interview, he said the North Rift security operation is described as an ‘inside operation’ since it does not spill over the international border. 

Critical information

“The one carried out in Mount Elgon to flush out the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF) was a frontier operation. It blended with traditional conflict approaches, which made it highly successful. Critical information was shared by chiefs, the Laibons (traditional leaders) … It is my hope that this is replicated in the ongoing North rift operation,” Col Kwonyike told the Nation at Marigat, Baringo County.

The retired colonel said women greatly suffer in any conflict and if their safety is assured, they would volunteer a lot of information. 

“There is also a critical role played by the community Laibons. They should be identified and arrested. They are the ones responsible for the encouragement of raids through false and mischievous or misleading antics and power over the vulnerable cattle rustlers,” he said. 

The retired soldier said cattle rustling was a savage tradition that is made all the more brutal by the acquisition of sophisticated firearms by those who practise it.

“The bandits are renowned for their war-like prowess, which has been boosted and enhanced by the deserters from the security forces. These deserters have now formed the main training nucleus of cattle rustling, warmongering, and intelligence web,” he said.

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers who were part of a convoy at Marigat in Baringo County on February 17, 2023. A security operation to flush out bandits is going on in the North Rift.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

“To stem this power of the incorrigible and criminal ex-security forces elements’ influence over the community, they should all be arrested and charged for the relevant offences. This should apply equally to all the communities,” he said. 

Col Kwonyike also urged the government to be deliberate in developing the region to ensure a paradigm shift after the security operation. 

Fresher paradigms

“The traditional approaches to seeking solutions to the twin menaces of cattle rustling and banditry in the North Rift have so far not achieved the desired end-state. Due to the increasing sophistication of cattle rustling and associated banditry in the region, the fundamentals of addressing the problem now need to be shifted and newer and fresher paradigms for change created,” he said. 

As of Tuesday, a total of 23 guns had been surrendered in four out of the six counties classified as armed and dangerous by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki. No guns have been surrendered by civilians in Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.

Sixteen guns were surrendered in Samburu, four in West Pokot, and three in Turkana county.

Last week, Prof Kindiki declared Samburu, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana, West Pokot and Laikipia as disturbed and dangerous. His Defence counterpart Adan Duale also gazetted the involvement of KDF to back the security operation in the six counties.

Governors in North Rift counties have backed the deployment of the military to help in the security operation in the troubled parts of the region, even as they called on the national government to initiate projects as another way to restore peace and order.