- Parents brag about whose son has paid the biggest dowry in terms of cattle.
- People in the region are used to gaining pride amongst their peers over the number of cattle one steals.
- Banditry has increased now due to school closures.
Baringo’s courageous Women Representative, Florence Jematia, has disclosed why the ongoing insecurities experienced in regions of Baringo county are yet to end, as she brutally added that previous regimes should be scrutinized for letting the menace breed and develop deep roots.
Jematia has, all along, refused to live up to her name “Jematia” which means “just tiny”, and is on a mission to put her house in order no matter what it takes.
This would not be her first attempt as she has faced the music and her experience remains a secret as to exactly what she faced after boldly defending her community before over banditry concerns.
Her defense contributed to her early win to power during the 2022 elections, a power she is practically using in pursuit of justice and peace for her people.
Seated on the hot seat in one of the national radio stations in the country, she did not miss her words as she sharply elaborated why Baringo County is still uncalm, stating that the insecurity situation, which appears to be calm, is never predictable.
She stated that managing the situation has taken ages and the region has really come a long way. Tagging Tiaty and its surroundings as the epicenter of bandits, she raises the fears that no one is sure of waking up the next day,
She also put more emphasis on the fact that illiteracy in the affected regions has grown roots that have caused the residents to view cattle rustling as a cultural norm.
Painting a picture of the daily lifestyle in the affected areas, she says the people in the region are used to gaining pride amongst their peers over the number of cattle one steals.
Parents brag about whose son has paid the biggest dowry in terms of cattle.
She reveals that the residents practicing banditry do not actually feel any pain as long as they can enjoy life, steal, and eat well.
This is unlike the outside people who watch with concern as the practice, which used to be enjoyed in the past without bloodshed, has caused a whole lot of deaths and terror amongst residents.
Not like before
Jematia also added that the long-explained traditional practice has become commercialized, linking the stealing of cattle to their demand for meat business in Nairobi.
Citing the areas of Tiaty Sub-County to be host to most Pokots, she says West Pokot County is just in the border and the areas around the Tiaty region are now affected.
As of now, over 20,000 residents around the affected areas, even up to 60 kilometers from Tiaty, have been forced to flee their homes.
Other affected areas are the borders of Turkana, Samburu and Baringo counties.
Descriptively, the area is serene and conducive to pastoralism, thus becoming the hunting field for the bandits.
Confronted with the question of how 100 cattle can be stolen and not be traced, Jematia says that business people use lorries to ferry the loot.
Although she says intelligent reports are there and that she too, has submitted the suspect’s names, no action has been taken so far; even the area chiefs are jawless.
She says the beneficiaries of this banditry control the market in the affected areas, and there are no people arrested and more so, no one will even be willing to be a witness even if they saw the stolen loot.
She says politicians are equally involved. Gun owners who sell guns to the bandits also scare the residents from being witnesses, thus deafening the voice for justice.
The Women Representative discloses that a lot of meetings have been held even together with the president on how to come up with tactical ways to stop Baringo from bleeding year in and year out.
Poverty in the region has become a major challenge.
“What President Ruto’s government is doing is to eliminate the bandits who have become violent thieves through the empowering of National Police Reservists (NPR).
The NPR are trained and armed to defend the community. They are also trained and controlled through security operators within the community,” she says.
Marginalization is another problem affecting the residents in those affected areas and the majority of them have no identification cards.
Societal beliefs have an impact on the bandits’ lives as they do not believe in women leadership. They tend to associate leadership with the oldest men with numerous wives.
These bandits destroy bee hives meant for economic sustainability and block constructed boreholes with stones.
The bandits’ lifestyle pleases only themselves; they don’t view it as wrong as much as the outside views them.
That perception has cost the government a lot of money and resources, thinking they are helping them, but instead, they do not need it. They just need a change of perception and approach to life.
“During the tenure of the second president of Kenya the late Daniel Moi and during the third president’s tenure the late Mwai Kibaki, no tangible developments were done in those areas,” she says.
According to UNICEF, over 30,000 children in Tiaty do not go to school. There is the highest number of teenage pregnancies. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a norm and early marriages, too.
Jematia says those who have accessed education are really smart and think differently, criticizing area leaders for not using the National Government Constituency Development Funds (NG-CDF) to build schools.
President Ruto’s approach to ending the practice is through development at the expense of the killings, through the building of security roads, which has worked in Northern Regions of Kenya.
Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), too, are building four schools in Tiaty.
Area professionals are urged to start sensitizing the community on the power of education.
She says if only after the schools are ready, the children should be kept there at a boarding school for up to three years to minimize their interaction with the community, their perception would forever change.
Banditry has increased now due to school closures.
It remains a riddle as to how bloodshed is encouraged.
Recently, on October 31, 2023, The Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) summoned Tiaty MP William Kamket ,West Pokot Senator Julius Murgor, and Sigor MP Peter Lochakapong, over allegations of inciting violence.
What exactly have Baringo residents not been told?
Is it that the repercussion of exposing the bandits or arresting them is as deadly as not?
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For how long shall a journalist like me keep reporting on insecurity issues with information of undisclosed names? Just when will Baringo stop bleeding? When will Jematia finally set her people free?