Arm civilians if you can’t protect them from ruthless gangs

EDITORIAL |

President Uhuru Kenyatta presides over destruction of over 8,700 fire arms at Magadi GSU training camp in Kajiado. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Insecurity remains the government’s Achilles heel. Cases of insecurity in most parts of the country continue to grow or simply refuse to go away despite efforts to end them. Most of the insecurity is fueled by the proliferation of illegal firearms in affected areas.

In June 2021, President Uhuru Kenyatta set ablaze 5,144 illegal firearms in line with his government’s commitment to fight crime and insecurity. That desire stemmed from the African Union’s ambitious plan to silence guns in Africa by end of 2020. However, the destruction of illegal guns hardly made an impact. According to data by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey, there were 750,000 illegal firearms in Kenya in 2018, up from 680,000 in 2016.

Northern parts of Kenya, especially, experience insecurity from the indiscriminate use of illegal guns. Seven people lost were killed in Meru Wednesday this week by raiders from Isiolo as a result of conflict over grazing land. Conflict between the Borana, Rendille and Gabra communities over grazing rights resulted in the deaths of 12 people in December last year.

In Baringo, Kerio Valley, Turkana and Laikipia, cattle rustling incidences abound and killings are the order of the day because of a proliferation of illegal firearms. Laikipia County has not been spared either and towards the end of last year, raids by armed bandits resulted in the deaths of both civilians and security officers.

Every time such incidents occur, the government and local communities attribute them to the culture of rustle-rustling. Government security patrols have had little, or no effect in lessening insecurity in the hotspot areas. There have been numerous claims that some leaders are behind the insecurity in their respective areas. Many arrests have been made following such claims, but no permanent solution has ever been found.

When security officers become victims, hard questions must be asked. Who are these individuals brave enough to attack police and army officers in broad daylight and get away with it? Where do supposedly illiterate bandits get police intelligence and superior arms?

We cannot afford more loss of lives to banditry. Citizens in affected areas cannot live perpetually in fear when they have a government to protect them. There is urgent need for the government to launch massive campaigns to mop up illegal arms in all trouble spots or allow locals to legally acquire arms for self-defence against the ruthless attackers who show no compassion even to women and children as they indiscriminately kill them during raids.

The government must find a way out of this perennial nightmare.

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