Rift Valley leaders now want cattle rustling and banditry classified as acts of terrorism, with those convicted sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
They want the law amended to include the two vices that are now synonymous with Kerio Valley and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people at the hands of gun-toting criminals traversing Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia counties.
Speaking in Chesongoch during a security meeting attended by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, the leaders urged the government to deal with the menace once and for all.
“Even the Bible says those who live by the sword should die in the same manner,” Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot said.
“We need to be decisive in the manner we handle the bandits because it hurts each time to come here, not to launch development projects, but to condole the bereaved families,” he added.
Instead of sending Kenyan troops to deal with other countries’ problems abroad, Mr Cheruiyot said, they should be deployed to Kerio Valley to deal with bandits.
“As leaders, we shall support all efforts both inside and outside Parliament to ensure that those we represent live normally just like those from other regions in the country,” he said.
Bomet Senator Hillary Sigei said the law was clear on how to handle criminals and the government was obligated to protect people and their properties.
“We are optimistic that the government will handle the issue and, if the law prescribes the death penalty for the criminals, so be it,” he said. Elgeyo Marakwet Woman Rep Caroline Ngelechei lamented that the numerous peace meetings held to find a lasting solution to the banditry crisis had achieved nothing.
“What is happening in Kerio Valley is nothing but robbery with violence. Let all convicted criminals face a firing squad or a hangman’s noose because they are terrorists,” she said.
No more peace forums
Marakwet East MP David Bowen said Prof Kindiki should not be like his predecessors who were quick to issue ultimatums but failed to protect lives. Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich said no more peace forums would be held.
“We are ready to support any piece of legislation that will help address the menace once and for all. We fully support the proposal to have banditry and cattle rustling classified as acts of terrorism,” he said.
According to the Prevention of Terrorism Act No 30 of 2012, any person who carries out a terrorist act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty years.
It further states that, where a person carries out a terrorist act which results in the death of another person, such a person is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for life. A person who is a member of, or professes to be a member of a terrorist group commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty years.
Last February, former Interior CS Fred Matinag’i said the National Security Council was to consider outlawing the Pokot warriors movement“the same way we outlawed the Mombasa Republican Council and other terrorist groups in the country”.