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Leaders must unite to put an end to cattle rustlers attacks

By Linah Jebii Kilimo | July 6th 2021

Security officers identify some of the 54 cows recovered in Elgeyo Marakwet as they were being driven to a market in Eldoret.[Kevin Tunoi,Standard]

The continued banditry and cattle rustling attacks on innocent people along the Kerio Valley must be condemned. Renewed cattle rustling incidents along the Kerio Valley that have claimed more than five lives in the last one week alone pose a serious threat to the gains made by the recent peace caravan spearheaded by leaders and women. 

The latest attacks are impacting negatively on the socio-economic status of communities in the region as traders and school children flee insecurity hit areas. The otherwise agriculturally rich region has been turned into a valley of death with innocent lives being lost while scores flee their homes. But even as we look for short-term measures, national and county governments should explore ways of redirecting negative energies expended by the warriors by possibly securing alternative source of livelihood such as improving infrastructure to allow small and medium enterprises as well as resorting to irrigated agriculture in these semi-arid zones. 

One of the long-term measures is to bring the region into the nation's economic mainstream. Counties along the border areas should initiate irrigation schemes with the help of the national government as well as improving roads, building schools and hospitals. By implementing these development initiatives, youths in the affected areas would be busy and there would be no room for acts of lawlessness.

Pastoralist areas are blessed with resources that can sustain current and future generations, and it is possible to attain all-round development if there is peace and stability. But for this to happen, pastoral communities must come to terms with the fact that they have not benefitted in any way from conflicts over cattle, land ownership as well as watering points.

I must also appreciate the fact that since the peace caravan was launched in 2015, comprised of MPs, religious leaders, elders and the youth, the situation improved. We also recently launched a women peace caravan in collaboration with Pastoral Livelihoods Resilience Project where women would take the lead in preaching peace and harmonious relations among communities in the Kerio Valley. The objective of the peace caravan was desirable as it facilitated dialogue among communities living in the region.

Political leaders from the warring pastoral communities need to be honest, sincere and have a common voice during peace forums, especially when they retreat to their respective areas of jurisdictions. It is unfortunate that in some cases, leaders in the Kerio Valley lose their sense of nationalism when it comes to issues of insecurity in the region.

The multi-faceted dimensions of the problem compound the logistical challenges of any realistic disarmament strategy. The North Rift region, for instance, requires several governments – Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan – to orchestrate a finely coordinated police-cum-civil society offensive, or to marshal the overwhelming force required for disarming the groups within their respective borders. The situation in South Sudan and the warlords ruling Somalia would render the impact of regional disarmament only temporary even if successful. The fact remains that efforts by Kenya police to enforce the law only aggravate the situation, sometimes leading to vicious gun battles, with the porous borders making it easy for cattle rustlers to flee. 

As people of the Kerio Valley, we should also come to terms with the fact that no outsider is going to bring peace for us if we do not do so ourselves.
With more focus on empowering the youth economically through projects such as farming, business activities among other income generating activities, cattle rustling would be eradicated. Although long-term solutions are critical to bringing the region into the nation's economic mainstream by improving roads, building schools and hospitals and even setting up irrigation schemes by the national and county governments, it is important to regulate and monitor guns in the wrong hands of individuals.

Mrs Kilimo is CAS Public Service and Gender and former Marakwet East MP


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