• The increased use of weaponry in cattle rustling by the pastoralist communities has become a daunting security threat to the lives of the pastoralists t
• The recent killing of three security officers in Kainuk along the Turkana-West Pokot boundary last week is a clear indication the bandits have sophisticated weapons.
The military intervention to complement police efforts in the fight against bandits who have caused mayhem and loss of property in the North Rift region is commendable.
President William Ruto has directed Interior CS Kithure Kindiki to pitch camp in the region until law and order is restored to enable the residents to go on with their socioeconomic activities.
Kindiki has consequently declared Laikipia, Elgeyo Marakwet, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot and Baringo as disturbed and dangerous zones, paving way for military action against the bandits.
The protracted armed conflict has led to loss of lives of many innocent people and security personnel, besides loss of livestock, an indication of how the criminals are taking the law into their arms.
Banditry remains a major cause of insecurity and conflict amongst the pastoral communities in the valley.
The ongoing upsurge of insecurity problems have been greatly facilitated by availability of small arms and light weapons in the cattle-rustling prone areas.
The increased use of weaponry in cattle rustling by the pastoralist communities has become a daunting security threat to the lives of the pastoralists themselves and also a key threat to the core of their livelihoods, which is anchored on ownership of large herds of livestock.
The recent killing of three security officers in Kainuk along the Turkana-West Pokot boundary last week is a clear indication the bandits have sophisticated weapons.
The Kainuk attack followed another in Kapedo, where the bandits ambushed a police vehicle killing all the occupants including a peace crusader who was Ekuru Aukot sister.
It is emerging that the raiders outnumber police deployed to the cattle rustling prone areas in the region- hence amount of sophistication of weaponry in the hands of these communities is also frightening.
The past disarmament operations have yielded little or no fruits because of the region's proximity to Uganda and South Sudan, where herds go about their duties with guns.
What needs to be done is for the government to close all border points to ensure no criminal crossed into the neighboring countries during the operation period.
It has become clear that small arms have made crime more violent in many parts of the country, with business people now closing their shops at 6pm in trading centres because of fear for their lives due to the high crime rate.
We cannot eradicate poverty if people close shops as early as 6pm; farmers are not able to engage in farming and even children failing to go to schools for fear of being attacked.
And following the acquisition of firearms through the border with the neighboring countries by communities living along the border areas, the traditional cattle raids changed to a full-fledged war that has even left behind staring scars of bitterness and hatred among the warring communities.
Unlike in the past, pastoral communities are no longer using the traditional bows and arrows. They are now using AK47, G3, mortars and even grenades among other sophisticated weapons.
In short, the real cause of cattle rustling and banditry lie with the heavy presence of firearms in the wrong hands of civilians, which has made it difficult for security officers to deal firmly with the culprits.
Traditionally, elders were responsible for the security of a community but because of presence of armed morans (warriors), elders nor parents no longer have control on these people.
But what is clear is that history of operations carried out in the recent past ended in mixed results. This means others bore little fruits while others did not.
In 1984, for example, after a group of armed Pokots seemed to be a force of its own, the government then launched a major security operation to disarm them. It was reported that the Kenya army bombed a hill believed to be their hideout in the area.
Another military operation was carried out in Wajir, where many civilians were reported to have lost their lives in what has since been dubbed Wagalla massacre.
During such operations, it was the innocent wananchi who would be subjected to untold suffering.
In such circumstances, the rustlers’ retreat briefly to normal life so that security personnel could think that normalcy has been restored and therefore return back to their camps outside the operation zones.
The military during such operations should exercise maximum restrain and avoid turning innocent civilians into collateral damage as this Kerio Valley operation is inevitable if the presence of illegally acquired firearms in the region has to be checked.
But for this operation to be successful the government should ensure the sustainability of the exercise so that all the criminal elements are weeded out by closing all the border points with the neighboring countries.
Security officers carrying out the operations and those working in hardship areas should be well equipped and given incentives aimed at boosting their morale in such difficult circumstances.
Three, wananchi who are the most affected by these incidents should identify the few criminals terrorizing them and volunteer information that can lead to their arrests.
National and county governments should open up the region for economic transformation. That's schools and health centers’ be established, roads be opened up and dams as well as water pans be established to provide water for irrigation purposes to pave way for agricultural activities.
Stern action be taken against leaders who incite the youth to engage in acts of lawlessness for their selfish ends. Leaders who also politicize the ongoing efforts should not be tolerated.
The government should permanently gazette all areas where residents are not allowed to posses’ illegal arms.
A permanent Kenya Army camp be established in the region with standby military choppers and with the help of drones in responding to any attack at any given time.
A land demarcation exercise be carried out in the region and residents compelled to carry out farming activities in their fenced farms. There will be no idle land for grazing battles. This will force the people to reduce the number of animals owned and embrace other sources of getting income.
The government should, therefore, implement the security measures it has put in place to ensure that all guns in the wrong hands are collected besides closing the source of these firearms.
In any case, it’s the constitutional duty of Government to protect people's lives and property in any part of the country.
But the fact remains that, as the Government comes up with long-term solution to the menace, military intervention is welcome as a short-term solution to peace and stability in the region for now.
It's the hope of Kerio Valley residents that lasting peace is in the offing if right security measures are put in place to contain banditry and cattle rustling activities.
Kaino works for Presidential Communication Service. Comments here are his own.