Samburu chiefs pushed to arrest criminal gangs in Maralal town

Samburu County Commissioner Henry Wafula speaks during a security meeting at Kirisia area in Maralal, Samburu County

Photo credit: Geoffrey Ondieki | Nation Media Group

The government will confront gunmen who are wreaking havoc in Maralal town and curb cattle rustling, burglary and robbery.

Residents have been complaining about a network of dreaded criminal gangs robbing people at gunpoint. The criminals prey on unsuspecting businessmen who own M-Pesa shops and wholesalers who are often targeted even in broad daylight.

The gangs operate in the central business district and the outskirts of Maralal.

To dehorn the bandits, the government has pushed chiefs and their assistants to do their job and arrest the criminals.

A gang has been terrorising locals by raiding homesteads and shops, said Samburu County Commissioner Henry Wafula.

He argued that chiefs are in the best position to profile armed civilians in their jurisdictions.

"We even have the names of these criminals. We have just tasked our chiefs and local administrators to help us arrest them. The elders, I believe, can tell criminals within their areas of jurisdiction. We have to arrest them before it is too late," Mr Wafula said.

The banditry problem, he said, cannot be solved by government officers alone without support from political leaders and communities.

He added that “teamwork between the government, communities and leaders” will bring peace.

Despite increased police patrols, illegal guns in the hands of civilians have turned this area into a nightmare for travellers, herders and the business community.

Decades of banditry in the Samburu countryside have evolved and spilled over to Maralal, with gun-slinging criminals stealing from "soft targets".

There have been multiple reports of daylight attacks, the most recent one on Sunday, when gunmen stormed the town and drove away hundreds of goats.

Several cases of burglary, break-ins, and robbery at gunpoint have been reported in the past one week. While a security offensive against armed bandits may have succeeded in other parts of the country, the impact has not been felt in Maralal.

Residents and local leaders blame escalating insecurity on security agencies' hesitancy to deal with criminals.

Samburu Governor Jonathan Lelelit recently resolved to set up a county security department.

Mr Lelelit explained that perennial insecurity needed to be addressed. He vowed to work with other leaders to end the problem, saying the department will coordinate its work with the county and national security teams.

Mr Lelelit noted that young warriors or morans are engaging in the age-old practice of cattle rustling and that hundreds have been killed and others maimed in battlefields.

“It does not make sense for one to take another's life because of a cow. It is really heartbreaking to see such," he said.

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