Revealed: The traditional spiritual leaders sabotaging govt's war on bandits

Bandits attacked a Turkana county government vehicle on Sunday and sprayed it with bullets. The occupants escaped unhurt.

Burnt police vehicles at KWS hotspot area on February 15, 2023, where four police officers were killed and seven injured by bandits.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Security officers conducting an operation in six counties of North Rift that have been declared dangerous and disturbed are pursuing traditional spiritual leaders who are "praying and blessing" bandits in the region before they execute attacks.

The Nation has established that the spiritual leaders are at the centre of banditry and cattle rustling, plotting and issuing divine instructions to bandits before and after cattle raids.

Investigations by Nation.Africa found out that locals believe the traditional spiritual leaders have "supernatural powers" and the ability to predict the future, offer blessings and divine prayers and administer oaths to bandits before and after cattle raids.

The traditional spiritual leaders are revered characters in these communities and bandits heavily rely on their divine interventions to conduct their heinous operations.

The traditional spiritual leaders have now attracted the attention of Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, who has declared a war on them.

Prof Kindiki, while issuing a statement on the commencement of the second phase of the security operation, said he was aware of spiritual leaders and sorcerers commanding banditry activities in the region.

"We have identified the spiritual leaders who are giving blessings to raiders and murderers before they commit the crimes," Prof  Kindiki said.

The CS also confirmed the arrest of one of the spiritual leaders.

Prof Kindiki affirmed that the 'clergyman' was arrested in a sting operation and would be arraigned in court "anytime from today to face charges."

Prophetic support

"Already, one of them is in custody. He is a spiritual leader who is believed to be giving prophetic support to these bandits," he said.

"We know who they are and we know how they are operating. We have conclusively established the key suspects who are commanding these terror gangs," the CS said.

He added: "This is not an empty statement. We have their names, we have profiles and we are going for them.”

Sources told the Nation.Africa that whenever bandits stage a raid and capture livestock, these traditional spiritual leaders get a share as a reward for offering divine intervention.

"Yes, it is a norm. One cannot conduct a raid without divine prayers and instructions from traditional spiritual leaders. They predict and officer blessings to bandits before and after cattle raids," said a reliable source, who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

"After the raids, the traditional spiritual leaders pray for them (bandits) to purify them in a ritualistic ceremony. He/she gets a share from the bandits," he added.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki during a press briefing in Malaso area, Samburu County on Sunday March 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Geoffrey Ondieki I Nation Media Group

Prof Kindiki also announced that the government will offer monetary rewards to members of the public who provide information that will help police arrest commanders of banditry activities in the North Rift region.

He revealed that the government will also publicise names and photographs of suspected commanders of banditry activities.

According to the CS, State agencies have sufficient and reliable intelligence on some individuals who are funding and perpetrating banditry across the affected countries in the North Rift.

"The government will also offer monetary rewards to any member of the public who will provide us with information that can help us to apprehend these suspects," the CS said.

On Sunday he ordered locals residing in bandit-hit zones to leave immediately as the government put in place measures to flush out bandits using the areas as hideouts.

Prof Kindiki noted that people living in 27 gorges, ravines, escarpments and hills in Baringo, Samburu, Laikipia, West Pokot and Turkana counties should vacate the areas within 24 hours or else be dealt with as bandits.

Restore normalcy

He said the Kenya Kwanza administration will use all resources at its disposal to restore normalcy in the north.

Some of the bandit-invested zones include Tandare Valley and  Mkogodo forest in Baringo, Kamwenje, Losos and Kiape hills in Laikipia,  Ltungai Longewan, Lolmolok, Pura Valley, Suguta, Malaso from Marti to Ltungai in Samburu County.

Others include Nadome and Kamur in Turkana and Turkwel escarpments in West Pokot County.

"These places are the scenes of crimes. So, anybody found within these regions from Monday will be treated as a suspect," the CS announced.

Any air movement in these regions, apart from those aircraft taking operation, was also banned, as other security measures remain in force.

Defiant bandits have turned Malaso and Kur Kur valleys in Samburu their "operation territory" as they continue to stage mockery attacks in the entire Lorroki division, Samburu West. Whenever gun-slinging criminals stage attacks across villages in the region, they often drive livestock down the valley making it impossible for security troops to trace them. The Malaso and Kur Kur valleys have a tantalising view from a distance, but beneath, it is bandits' haven.

The edges of the rift valley connecting Suguta Valley shared in Turkana and parts of Baringo, do not have good accessibility. The terrain is sharp, rocky and mountainous with thorny shrubs and cacti.