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Act decisively to contain conflicts in Baringo

By The Standard | Published Sun, February 26th 2017 at 00:00, Updated February 25th 2017 at 19:00 GMT +3
A section of Chemolingot residents in Baringo County flee the area following increasing cases of insecurity. PHOTO: KIPSANG JOSEPH

A potent mix of lawlessness and bad politics has continued to fuel killings and displacements in parts of Baringo County. Daytime executions and cattle raids have become the norm in this part of the country. This is happening under the watch of security forces. Sad!
The spate of killings and displacements that has gone on for over a year now points to a government in the dark on what really ails this region, and what to do about it.

For years, the central government has buried its head in the sand ignoring causes of this conflict. Incitement, bordering on hate speech, has been tolerated. Inter-community warfare has been actively encouraged by elected leaders. There has been no urgency in dealing with the porous borders to stem the entry of illegal guns into the country. Cattle rustling, a conduit for money laundering, has been left to go on unabated. From this tolerated chaos, only uncontrolled chaos has risen. It is time for the government to deal with the monster it created.

This week, while on a tour of the volatile region, Deputy President William Ruto, in a sweeping road side declaration, issued a shoot-to-kill order. But is this the way to bring peace back in a region nearly ruled by bandits whose list of fears probably does not include death?

Law and order cannot be secured through the threat of death to bandits who have through their actions demonstrated that death is the least of their worries. The problem in Baringo, and many other parts of the country currently teetering on the brink of anarchy, is the near complete absence of authority.

For them, authority belongs to the one who holds a firearm. He who can easily run riot in a neighbouring village and take off with dozens of cows and donkeys. Authority does not lie in a quasi-executive order from a man who falls from the sky to instruct locals on what to do.

A telling sign of the underlying tensions in the area was that as the DP lectured the residents on the government’s no-holds-barred approach, gunfire could be heard not far from where he was addressing the residents. There could not be a more potent testimony of executive impotence than this.

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Threats of violence or actual violence alone will not solve the underlying issues. Parts of Baringo have since time immemorial been left untouched and ungoverned. The concept of a central government to many of these residents is alien. There is almost zero presence of law enforcement officers or any representative of central government for many miles in some areas. Here the law of the jungle rules supreme.

To bring some semblance of order, the region needs to be opened up. The absence of roads and other forms of infrastructure does little to help the government’s cause. Granted, devolution has opened up some previously unreachable regions, but it is hardly enough.

It should not be forgotten that there indeed exists an army camp in the area. This has done little to deter bandits from running roughshod over the residents. If the community sees no value in the presence of such institutions with regard to their protection, then our children and grandchildren will suffer fates similar to that of their parents, and lead them down the same path of death, insecurity and misery as a seemingly uncaring government looks the other way.

This runaway insecurity needs to be dealt with now more than ever due to the fast approaching General Election. It is not far-fetched to think politicians will use this bloody violence to settle old scores, deal with political opponents and thrive in the ensuing chaos. It has happened before under the government’s watch. It is happening again. How many more orphans and widows need to be created before this menace is dealt with?

It is ironical that we, as a nation, have ploughed unimaginable amount of resources and personnel to pacify foreign nations but are incapable of keeping our citizens safe at home.

All that the people of Baringo want is an assurance that they can be left to live in their homes peacefully, without the overhanging threat of AK-47 bullets in the hands of bloodthirsty bandits always looming.