Come up with new strategies to contain menace of bandit attacks

Police officers patrolling at Kasiela area in Mochongoi, Baringo south on March 8, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

It's Albert Einstein, the developer of the theory of relativity, who said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Theft, maiming and killing are not strange to communities in the eastern part of Turkana, East Pokot in Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet. The attackers, who wreak havoc, while stealing livestock have become braver to the extent that they are no longer afraid of law enforcers.

On September 25, 2022, bandits ambushed and killed seven General Service Unit (GSU) security officers and their driver at Namariat near Kakiteitei village in Kapedo/Napeitom ward in Turkana County. The bandits went ahead and attacked a peace caravan in the same area, killing the Napeitom Senior Chief Gilbert Lomukuny and peace crusader Mary Kanyaman.  

This is inhuman and must be stopped at all costs. Something more strategic must be done to mitigate the volatility. A four-prong approach can be deployed to address this vexing and barbaric practice of livestock theft; structured dialogue, sustained education, political support and goodwill and alternative development. 

Structured dialogue in such a volatile environment will work in many ways. This needs the involvement of both national and county governments with well-planned resource allocation for mediation, persuasion and well-nurtured community relations.

The attackers come from within these communities. They are well-known by residents of their respective communities. Therefore, the involvement of key leaders from these neighbourhoods will do a lot in creating harmony and development for posterity.

The use of opinion leaders; community elders/leaders, elected leaders and local administration from all feuding communities will offer a more sustainable peace. Vicious security operations, violent crackdowns, hard-talking and arms mopping and re-arming communities and Kenya Police Reservists have failed in the past. Once the leaders come together with progressive political goodwill and support, the positive peace trickle effect will automatically be felt within communities.

This strategy requires a very well-structured execution. For now, security operation can lead to tranquillity and confidence and create some sense of security within the communities.

Setting up community dialogue groups comprising of political, local and community opinion leaders. Out of this strategy, the groups should set out to the next stage with both local and national government-sustained education programmes.

The structured education among these communities, financed by both local and national governments, and supported by religious formations should, among other things, provide boarding school facilities to admit all school children from primary to secondary schools.

Religious formations should inculcate the culture of fear of God and the need for peace as is in Matthew 5:9 (Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God).

That kind of faith blended in education will be a game-changer. This will need time. Education in such facilities may look expensive on the surface, but in the long run, it will bear fruit.

The expense cannot be compared with the loss of human lives that have been experienced in the area. About 30 GSU officers have lost their lives in the last eight years in and around the Suguta-Kapedo corridor under the same circumstances.

The structured education programmes should be sustained for at least 10 years to guarantee sufficient social and mindset change. The change will also ensure that the beneficiaries will look beyond livestock rustling.

Education mixed with belief in God will also give the communities hope and the necessary exposure beyond the local environment and exposure for more economic opportunities. Change of mindset and rationalism would be the best window to ensnare these communities from cyclic violence.

Political support and goodwill is the other avenue of mobilising the communities. The feuding communities are within a political location that produces elected leaders who meet the people and ask for votes.

In the same way political leaders, all the way from Members of the County Assembly to the governors, persuade them to vote for them, they should persuade them to embrace peace and harmony for prosperity.

The politicians command overwhelming local support. To bring peace and sustainable development in these areas they must take the lead role and undertake to spread peace and progressive lifestyles. Political support and goodwill are key components of peace.

The devolved functions guarantee resources to the grassroots. The resources should be used to bring alternative development for these communities that look at livestock raring as their only source of income and livelihood. To these communities, livestock is a matter of life and death. 

Most of the areas affected by livestock rustling have very fertile soils suitable for farming. With strategic approach in better utilisation of resources, the local and national governments could start resizing of livestock with improved breeds for commercial meat and dairy business for farmers, among other activities. Once well-inducted to modern livestock raring, the communities will see sense in small and manageable herds.

To give these communities attractive options to livestock raring, the governments could also introduce them to crop farming which would give them some sense of settlement and land ownership to discourage them from roaming with large herds of cattle in search of pasture. These approaches can be done to avert bloodshed among our communities going forward.

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