More than 2,000 people who moved out of bandit-prone areas in the North Rift counties following a government directive recently are now living a life of misery.
On March 12, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki ordered the families to vacate to allow security personnel to carry out raids against bandits who the government said were hiding in the area.
Weary of constant attacks by bandits, the citizens hurriedly complied with the government order because they believed it was for their own good. Many believed the operation would only take a few days at most, but weeks later, their miseries have been compounded. As matters stand today, they might as well have jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
The government did not give the residents notice to vacate. Thus, the time they were given was too short for them to plan and carry essentials with them.
It did not help matters that even as they were being ordered to leave, the government did not provide them with alternative temporary shelter.
With the onset of rains in most parts of the country, the displaced people in bandit-hit areas have been left at the mercy of the elements. In Samburu County, those ordered out of their homes are now living in makeshift tents.
The people do not have food and basic facilities like toilets, which increases the danger of infectious diseases like cholera. The gravity of the situation is captured in the call by Samburu Governor Lati Lelelit on the national government to suspend the security operation to allow people to go back to their homes.
The government has failed the very people it is supposed to protect. The immediate thing the government should do is to give these people food, water, tents and blankets to make their lives comfortable while the security operation goes on.
Alternatively, as Mr Lelelit has suggested, the people should be allowed to go back to their homes until such a time that the government comes up with a better strategy to defeat the bandits who continue to dare it despite the ongoing security operation.
That said, the government must initiate programmes that dissuade cattle rustlers from the vice. Education should be stepped up in the banditry-prone counties, where the youth are actively engaged.
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It is unfortunate that in this day and age, children from Northern Frontier counties are left to their own devices due to several factors such as drought and the tough terrain. President William Ruto promised to end cattle theft during the campaigns and now is the time to implement his plan for the region.
While doing so, he can borrow a leaf from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who dealt with the menace once and for all. It is possible to find a long-lasting solution to this menace and assure North Rift and Northern Kenyan residents of their security and economic progress.