• North Rift counties launched a peace initiative three years ago, governors say the programme has helped to drastically reduce banditry and cattle rustling . Fewer than four attacks reported in two years.
• The former cattle rustlers are mainly from Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties that have been ravaged by violence for many years.
More than 3,000 youths have abandoned banditry and cattle rustling the Kerio Valley in the past two years due to a peace and jobs deal.
They have benefited from a joint peace programme by counties, elders, leaders, NGOs and other peace actors.
The young men have gotten jobs in construction and agriculture as county bosses have prioritised the improvement of infrastructure and revival of all stalled projects.
The aim is to open up the region for tourism and agriculture that will create jobs for residents, especially young former bandits.
The North Rift region counties launched a joint peace initiative three years ago, with emphasis on development and jobs.
They say it has helped to drastically reduce banditry. Fewer than four attacks have been reported in two years.
“We need to sustain peace efforts and strengthen the inter-community elders' forum to convince people to completely shun banditry," Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich said.
Rotich has been at the forefront of working with youth in Kerio Valley, engaging them in alternative ways to earn a living. Banditry has undermined development and hurt everyone for more than five decades, he said.
Governors from the region, MPs, senators and other community leaders met in Nakuru last week to review progress and come up with fresh development initiatives.
“If we commit ourselves to the peace process as we have for two years, we will restore full security to Kerio Valley and open up the region for development," Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago said. He is chairman of the North Rift Economic Block.
Other county chiefs present included Josphat Nanok of Turkana, John Lonyangapuo of West Pokot, Stanley Kiptis of Baringo and other leaders.
The youth who have abandoned banditry are mainly from Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties which have been ravaged by banditry for many years.
The governors three years ago signed a peace accord at Chesogon on the border between West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet. It was witnessed by most regional leaders and Deputy President William Ruto.
Elders have convinced many youths to abandon cattle rustling and have tried to ensure stolen animals are returned to their owners on all sides.
“Without peace, we cannot achieve any meaningful development," Longyangapuo said. Banditry along the West Pokot and Turkana county borders has declined dramatically through peace efforts - and jobs.
(Edited by V. Graham)