What you need to know:
- Cattle rustling, once considered a cultural practice among Samburu pastoralists, has evolved into highway banditry, an enterprise characterised by the use of modern weapons resulting in death and destruction of property.
- The official regretted that rising insecurity on highways could lock the arid county in a "red zone" and that could hurt development.
Banditry and cattle rustling remain rampant in Samburu County, reflecting the severity of insecurity in one of Kenya's most troubled regions.
Cattle rustling, once considered a cultural practice among Samburu pastoralists, has evolved into highway banditry, an enterprise characterised by the use of modern weapons resulting in death and destruction of property.
For more than a decade, Samburu has struggled with serious insecurity that has severely disrupted law and order in the region.
Despite government efforts to curb banditry, the security situation in the volatile region remains challenging, characterised by deadly cattle raids and reprisal attacks.
Desperation and helplessness
And now, in a seeming show of desperation and helplessness, the Samburu Council of Elders has decided to turn to traditions and employ ancient curses known as Ldeket as a "last resort" to end the ongoing wave of crime.
Traditionally, the elders - custodians of culture and knowledge - have the authority to invoke and exorcise curses in the community, with their cursing being the most dreaded form of punishment for criminals.
David Lentiyo, the council’s Organizing Secretary, announced the decision, stating that a team of elderly men, culturally mandated to administer curses, had been selected to cast the spell.
The elders regretted the persistence of cattle rustling and highway banditry within Samburu County despite the heavy presence of law enforcement officers.
The decision was arrived at after a meeting at Lodokejek area in Samburu West on Tuesday, with Lentiyo explaining that the first curse pronouncement would occur on February 1, “with the consequences becoming evident thereafter”.
Government has failed
"We gave leaders time to help us end the menace; they somehow failed. The government has also failed. So, it is our time to take charge to cast the spell on defiant criminals executing cattle rustling and highway banditry activities within Samburu County," said Mr Lentiyo.
The official regretted that rising insecurity on highways could lock the arid county in a "red zone" and that could hurt development.
Cursing, in the Samburu community, is performed by select elders perceived to be of good character as a last resort in conflict resolution.
Consequences include death or madness
The consequences are believed to include death or madness for the culprits.
“The consequences are severe,” warned Lentiyo.
As insecurity intensifies in parts of Samburu West, agro-pastoralists and small-scale farmers are abandoning their lands due to banditry.
Samburu Council of Elders patron Richard Leiyagu noted that bandit attacks have disrupted farming and pastoralism, the main economic activities in Samburu West.
The bandits also burn homesteads and steal foodstuffs, affecting hundreds of learners and causing widespread displacement and tension.
"This is why we need an urgent solution to the incessant bandit raids in our land. We need space to cast out wrath on them (criminals). We do not need interference from political leaders," he added.
Despite tough talk from the government on bandits, criminal elements have escalated their attacks in various parts of Samburu County in recent weeks.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has warned that the state would treat cattle rustling and banditry in Samburu at the same level as terrorism, vowing to unleash all government machinery to tackle the endemic crime.