Women, children not spared as cattle rustlers reign in terror

Displaced residents of Mukutani in Baringo .Photo:Kipsang Joseph/Standard

The sound of gun shots broke the peaceful morning silence in Mukutani village in Baringo County on March 14 last year.

Confused residents dashed from one corner to another as bandits unleashed terror, killing more than 15 people.

Women, children and the elderly were not spared as cattle rustlers shot across the grass-thatched houses.

When the screams died down, Shadrack Lekuruito’s dreams were shattered.

His property was destroyed and cows killed. But that was nothing compared to the injuries the 25-year old father of six had endured.

Two bullets that hit his stomach caused unbearable pain for the innocent man. His world had fallen apart.


“I can never forget that day. These memories that have caused intense pain are unforgivable,” said Lekuirito.

This is the brutal life of residents of areas affected by cattle rustling in Tiaty, Baringo South and Baringo North in Baringo County.

Moving from one end of the vast region to the other, stories of destruction follow a similar script. Families have lost loved ones and property and live with lifetime scars - stark reminders of the danger that looms.

The attacks have left most residents with permanent injuries, with many having to support themselves using waking sticks. Lekuiriko uses improvised crutches. He cannot support himself.

“I still feel pain in my stomach when I walk,” said the devastated young father.

Despite undergoing a series of surgeries at Kabarnet Hospital and the Moi Referral and Teaching Hospital in Eldoret, he has been confined to a life of hardship and can barely provide for his family. He now depends on his wife to provide.

“It is humiliating that I cannot help my wife. It makes me feel less of a man,” he said.

There are many victims of ruthless bandit attacks, especially within the Illchamus and Njemps communities.

Government assurances that the situation is being addressed haven't calmed the fears. Immediate former Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo maintains the government is on high alert.


“We have already come up with a strategy that will be both short and long-term towards restoring calm in the disturbed areas,” said Musiambo.

Musiambo said the strategy will involve intensifying the presence of security personnel. It will also rope in local leaders besides focusing on the socio-economic activities and infrastructure.

But these, to the locals, are just but promises. Residents of Kagir village in Baringo North say they live in constant fear. The permanent scars on their bodies tell sad tales of a people with lost hope.

“We are not at peace. We cannot live a peaceful life because they attack anytime,” said Joseph Kipkurur, who has bullet scars on his chest.

Kipkurur was attacked when he met with cattle rustlers driving away cows from a neighbouring village.

“I was on my way home when I met them on the road. They were from raiding a nearby centre. They shot at me. I am lucky to be alive today,” he said.

Despite knowing his attacker, no action was taken against the cattle rustlers who have continued to launch more attacks.

“I know who attacked me. He was a well-known person in the next village and yet he shot at me with no mercy,” he said.

Another victim, Thomas Kibet, has gone blind after his eyes were shot at.

Kibet who is a head teacher at Kagir Primary School remembers when bandits attacked his home, drove away more than 50 heads of cattle and shattered his eyesight.

“They shot at me when I tried to run. The bullet hit my face,” said the head teacher.

Countless lives have been lost. Husband and wives have lost spouses and many orphaned children are bearing scars of violence.

Mukutani Assistant Chief Wilson Oletopi could hardly hold back tears when he narrated how the fearless criminals cut open the stomach of his six-month-old pregnant wife.

“I last talked to her when I directed her to run to the church where most people were hiding. From then, I only went to collect her body and that of our son,” said the chief.

As he sits inside his makeshift tent in Eldume camp, the memories are still fresh in his mind.

“I will never forgive them for what they did.”

More than 300 families from Mukutani settled in the camp after they were forced out of their homes by armed ruthless bandits.