Woman who quit lucrative job to dialogue with bandits

Kianuk Chief Sarah Akoru Lochodo taking aim with her rifle in a mock security exercise in a bandit-prone area of Turkana County. She has chosen to negotiate with bandits to bring peace. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]
A dozen locals gather under a tree near Kainuk town on the border of Turkana and West Pokot.

A few minutes later, Sarah Lochodo arrives and the group stands up in a show of respect.

Ms Lochodo is the area Assistant Chief and the stand-out authority in an area known for banditry attacks.

Lucrative job

The 46-year-old quit a lucrative job at the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) to help fight banditry.

And today, she is chairing a meeting with residents to address cross-border fighting between communities in Turkana and West Pokot counties.

A week earlier, tension was high at the border after one person was shot dead and livestock stolen by suspected bandits. Ms Lochodo is hoping the meeting will end talks of a retaliatory attack.

It was in October 2002 when Lochodo took up the mantle as an Assistant Chief from the largely patriarchal Turkana community.

Negotiating skills

Her skills in negotiating for the release of people abducted by bandits, as well as pursuing cattle rustlers, has received applause from the State.

The Government has already enrolled her for paramilitary training, and given her a G3 rifle, a weapon rarely given to Kenyan chiefs.

“I decided to apply for the job at a time cattle rustling was rampant and residents were fleeing the border. I quit my job at NCCK because I had the desire to restore peace,” Lochodo said in an interview with The Standard.

When she applied for the job, she said she was asked by the State officials how she would end the perennial conflicts that came with cattle rustling , and she said she would push for dialogue with the bandits.

Husband left

“I was asked: “You are a woman and yet this is a volatile area. How will you deal with the bandits?” And my answer was: “I will negotiate with them,” said Lochodo.

She now goes with the Moniker “Mama Amani” (Mother of peace) among the warring communities.

Lochodo, a mother of three adopted children, said her husband married a second wife after she kept spending more nights away from home, brokering peace.

“My husband felt that I had attained unusual authority. We are not divorced, but he felt I was no longer submissive and decided to remarry,” she said.

Nazlin Asike, a resident, said normalcy had returned to Kainuk town as a result of Lochodo’s peace initiatives.

“We are proud of her because Kainuk, which is the gateway to Turkana County, is now peaceful and has become one of the fastest growing towns in the county,” said Ms Asike.

She was recognised by the University of San Diego in the United States as the 2010 woman peace-maker of the year. In 2016 she had an opportunity to tour China.

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Sarah LochodoKainuk townTurkanaWest PokotBanditry