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New government should tackle banditry more seriously

Nothing expresses disdain for our security services more than a deliberate attack on security personnel. [Istockphoto]

On Monday this week, bandits killed 11 people, among them eight security officers in a raid in Namariat village, Turkana County. Nothing expresses disdain for our security services more than a deliberate attack on security personnel. Unfortunately, such disdain has been expressed in Kerio Valley time and again by bandits who seemingly are too good for our security services for, indeed, none of the masterminds ever gets caught. 

When the hunter becomes the hunted, how secure can citizens who depend on the police for protection feel in their own motherland? That bandits still control the countryside decades after we obtained independence is an indictment on the government's ability to protect its citizens against aggression, whether internal or external. 

It is instructive that the latest attack came only days after President William Ruto promised that order will be restored in Kerio Valley where citizens live in constant fear of bandit attacks. After Monday’s attack, the president tweeted that having received a comprehensive report on the Turkana/Pokot incident, he had instructed security agencies to deal firmly, decisively and conclusively with those involved. “Cattle rustling will stop, na sio tafadhali”, he wrote.

Such promises have been made before, but evidently, nothing seems to have come out of them because bandit attacks continue unchecked. Time has come for the government to put action where its words are. More importantly, the government must address the triggers of banditry, which include illiteracy, poverty, poor infrastructure and a feeling of existing outside the structure of government because of neglect. 

Junior police officers are normally sent to volatile areas without requisite equipment, intelligence and backup where need arises, which puts their lives in danger. In 2012, for instance, 42 police officers were killed in Kapedo because there was no back-up. Many died hours later in the field where they had been attacked. As the government prepares to act, it must ensure that professionalism is maintained and that security officers go for the perpetrators of the crimes, not innocent residents who are victims of circumstances.