Political interference, unclear boundaries to blame for insecurity in Turkana

Senators during Senate Mashinani sitting at the Turkana County Assembly Chambers. [Edwin Nyarangi, Standard]

The Senate has heard that political interference and lack of clear boundaries was to blame for insecurity in Turkana county which has resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property.

Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma who appeared before the Senate National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations Committee in Lodwar town, yesterday, claimed that local politicians were the main sponsors of stock theft for commercial reasons.

Ouma told the committee chaired by Baringo Senator William Cheptumo that it was disturbing that a herd of around 5,000 cattle could be stolen, never to be recovered, a clear indicator that some influential individuals were behind the theft.

“If political leaders could come out and condemn stock theft, I am certain that we will do away with most of the cases since those involved have invested a lot of money in the illegal exercise. It is still not clear how some people can move around with huge numbers of animals without being noticed,” he said.

The County Commissioner cited inadequate security vehicles, modern weaponry, impassable roads and poor network coverage as major challenges in tackling insecurity in northern Kenya and asked for the senators support to end the menace.

Ouma blamed politicians for escalation of boundary disputes claiming that they support banditry attacks by inciting the communities against each other and it was time the government set out the boundaries which have been used as a scapegoat for violence.

The County Commissioner claimed that politicians interfere with the recruitment of National Police Reservists leading to goons and bandits being picked who later engage in criminal activities while hiding behind the cover of providing security.

“I am recommending that the government should separate political interests in the recruitment of National Police Reservists if at all we want to be successful in ensuring that security and order is maintained in the volatile border counties, since this is one of the challenges faced,” he said.

He said locals should be incorporated in the National Police Reservist programme to effectively tackle banditry and stock theft which are prevalent in the region.

Ouma noted that Turkana county currently has only 625 National Police Reservists but at least 1,090 more are needed to complement police and other security agencies in the region but emphasized that appropriate training and orientation was important for them to effectively tackle insecurity.

“Factors contributing to insecurity in Turkana include competition for pasture and water resources, cultural practices where there is demand for animals as bride price as well as livestock being a status symbol is perpetuating cattle rustling which motivates commission of crime,” he said.

The County Commissioner said that the Ministry of Interior has deployed GSU, RDU, ASTU officers to complement regular police in the area turning the once notorious highway of death from Kainuk, Lokichar, Lokol, Kapedo to Lomelol as well as Lami Nyeusi corridor into safe areas.

Ouma said that the deployment has led to heightened security patrol with various security organs taking charge of external parts of the county by blocking bandit routes.