By Allan Olingo, Osinde Obare and Lucas Ng’asike
Over the decades, areas near and along the common borders of Turkana, West Pokot, South Sudan and Ethiopia have experienced escalating incidences of insecurity related to cattle rustling and boundary disputes
Turkana pastrolists have been forced to herd with
their guns. [Photo: Martin Mukangu/Standard]
Early this month, police in Turkana smashed an arms smuggling racket across the borders between Kenya and Uganda. During the operation, the police arrested about ten individuals who they suspected of being behind the racket. Majority of the suspects were from South Sudan who police believed were involved in smuggling of arms into the country.
According to Turkana West OCPD Jonathan Ngala, the suspects, who included nine South Sudanese citizens and a Kenyan, were found in possession of 300 AK 47 bullets, 3,700 G3 bullets and four guns, which they believed had been smuggled into the country for sale.
“We have intelligence that some of these people are arms dealers fanning the conflicts between the various pastoralist communities within this area. We believe these are some of the people who have been selling arms to gangs across the border and we are looking for more suspects involved in the illegal trade,” Ngala said.
Government estimates that the gangs, including cattle rustlers, are holding more than 50,000 guns illegally. Efforts by the Government to disarm the groups have yielded little success over the last three years. Interestingly, in the Government disarming process, only about 3,000 guns have been voluntarily surrendered by some of the communities.
According to Turkana South Constituency Member of Parliament who is also the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Josephat Nanok, almost every month, dozens of lives are lost and hundreds of livestock stolen by bandits who operate with impunity in Turkana and Pokot Counties.
“It’s very sad that these communities are living in fear as the insecurity situation within these counties has made businesses to almost come to a halt, as entire communities are rendered destitute. This makes majority of the residents now depend on relief food,” says Nanok.
Nanok says the incidents of insecurity along common borders are now treated as routine occurrences by the Government, yet citizens continue to lose their lives and livelihoods.