By Isaiah Lucheli
After many failed attempts to end cattle rustling, provincial administrators, elders and the police have come up with homegrown ways to contain the menace.
Forceful attempts by the Government in Pokot, Samburu and Turkana to wipe out illegal arms have failed and banditry and cattle rustling still thrive.
Efforts by police to enforce the law only aggravated the situation, sometimes leading to vicious gun battles, with the porous borders making it easy for cattle rustlers to flee to neighbouring countries.
However, following various meetings among stakeholders in the region, it was decided that a homegrown solution, and not use of force by security forces, is the answer to the rampant insecurity.
This led to the signing of the Kainuk-Sarmach-Turkwel-Masol Corridor Peace Agreement on December 20, last year, and since then cases of banditry and cattle rustling have declined significantly.
The peace treaty will enable pastoralist communities in the region and across the borders to share available resources without conflict.
"The peace agreement was reached following a meeting between elders from both the Pokot and Turkana communities. Police officers, professionals and chiefs were also present," explains the Kainuk Assistant Chief Sarah Lochodo.
Lochodo explains that it was established that ravaging drought in the region is the main cause of conflict and rules were put up to prevent further cases of violence.
Some of the rules included punitive measures for those who commit murder or steal livestock. Those found interfering with alternative source of livelihoods being established, like beehives, would also be punished.
The regulations, which are popularly known as the 13 Commandments, have led to the recovery of stolen livestock and deterred unscrupulous individuals who had commercialised cattle rustling.
The first rule imposes a fine of four goats for each stolen goat. The number was arrived at basing on the legs of an animal. This applies to all livestock. Murder during livestock expeditions had become a common phenomenon and in a bid to avert the incidents, a fine of 40 livestock will be paid by the person responsible for murder while 20 cows are paid for injuries sustained.
Instances of vicious clashes leading to loss of lives and destruction of property have been the norm whenever one community attacks the other in revenge.
However to curb revenge, the rules require that any incident of attack is reported to the area chiefs office and elders.
"Since the rules were established, there has been no reported revenge attack over any accidental or intentional injury. Respective administrators are informed and the hunt for the cattle rustlers is launched," says Lochodo.
Lochodo explains that the Turkana side had returned 14 goats and six cows that had been stolen, while 12 goats had been paid as a fine for a cow that had been slaughtered by Turkana youths.
The Pokot side has also returned eight sheep stolen from Kainuk and a fine of four goats for a goat roasted by Pokot youths.
However Lochodo explains that the vastness of the region is a major setback to effectively implement the rules, but expressed optimism that the regulations would go a long way in solving the conflicts.
The elders have favoured this system, which would see a marriage between traditional and State laws. Criminal elements are handed over to the police.
For decades, conflicts involving access to water and pasture, especially during droughts, have heightened insecurity.
While addressing a peace caravan, John Emeripus, a professional from Turkana who helped draft the regulations, explains that the rule of law had for many years failed to establish law and order.
"For decades pastoralists have been engaging in vicious conflicts occasioned by the proliferation of illegal arms and fight for scarce resources," says Emeripus.
He explains that the rules also call for the naming and shaming those engaging in the vice.
Turkana County Council Chairman Eliud Kerio called for honesty among all the pastoralists’ communities to make the treaty effective.
"Some communities tend to abide by the treaty only when there is drought but when it starts raining they renege on the agreement and launch raids," explains Kerio.
He also called on the Government to fulfill its obligation of providing security for the people and asked communities in the region to discard cultures that perpetuate violence.
The Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Osman Warfa confirmed that the Government was aware of the rules and explains that they had played a key role in curbing cattle rustling.