Who is sponsoring cattle rustling in the North Rift?

Kenya’s North Rift region has over time faced perennial attacks in the name of cattle rustling and banditry practices which are outdated.

The region is endowed with several unique features like escarpments, natural resources, rare wildlife species and cultures.

People living along the common boundary of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Turkana as well as Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties have not enjoyed peace for a long time.

This is because of marauding armed bandits who stage raids day and night despite the presence of security personnel.

More than 100 people among them police officers and civil servants have fallen victims to the criminals while on official duties since the attacks began in late 1960’s.

But what is astonishing is the motive behind the attacks and syndicates involved in the ruthless attacks.

The insecurity situation has left thousands homeless while others have been left with permanent disabilities.

From the recent skirmishes in Laikipia West Constituency where bandits ambushed a village and terrorized residents, there is just more than meets the eye in a half a century practice which has taken back the region in terms of development.

Rift valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya noted that Laikipia had been having relative peace until when a major security operation was conducted in neighbouring Kapedo.

This forced bandits to take cover in conservancies from where they plan attacks on local communities.

The daring daylight attack at Mirigwit village caused hundreds of people to flee their homes.

They had learnt how the bandits had the courage to storm a nearby school and set ablaze at least three classrooms hours after the regional boss had launched a security operation in the area.

The Ministry of Interior quickly declared Laikipia nature conservancy where the bandits are reportedly retreating after committing their atrocities a disturbed area.

It also pronounced a 6pm to 6am curfew on it while livestock owners who herd their animals within the conservancies were given two days to remove them.

A Naturalist Gilbert Kiptalam who hails from Baringo has added his voice on the menace which seems not to be ending anytime soon.

According to Kiptalam (pictured above), White conservationists left behind after the then government banned game hunting in 1977 retreated to manage big conservancies in the North Rift Region.

They had the intention of continuing with their wildlife trade.

He claims that the Europeans are behind the insecurity menace experienced in the region.

He claimed that they sponsor criminals by giving them bullets to create anarchy for the residents to flee their ancestral lands thus, they come back to negotiate their communal land for the establishment of a conservancy.

Kiptalam who is the founder and CEO of Gilbert Wildlife adds that owners of famous conservancies in the country are from Europe and they have acquired a quarter of the country where they have pumped millions of money through the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) in the name of boosting tourism sector but they are the ones exporting Kenyan wildlife species to their zoos.

“Most of them are owning known large conservancies in Laikipia, Samburu and Isiolo counties,” said.

Conservancies in the North Rift include Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Ol Pejeta and Laikipia Nature Conservancy.

“What is shocking is that they are also being exempted from paying taxes,” he lamented.

When the county government of Baringo in November 2019 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with NRT, it received backlash from the locals who claimed that the organization will not benefit them directly since they take their community lands for wildlife conservation which they claim will not improve their livelihoods at family level.

The vocal wildlife champion claims that wardens manning the ranches have received specialized training from the British army who have also set base in the area in order to provide vigilance on the activities like slaughtering of stolen livestock which are taken to Saudi Arabian markets and other parts of the world.

He says some local politicians have also benefited from sponsorships during general elections that is why they keep quiet from commenting on perennial cattle rustling and banditry vices within their area.

Two members of peace committees from Baringo County Richard Chepchomei from Saimo Soi ward in Baringo North and Canon (rtd) Rev Christopher Chochoi while condemning the persistent banditry attacks in the region, blamed the situation on high number of illegal guns in the hands of civilians particularly young uneducated and unemployed youth who roam the area stealing livestock, laying ambushes to security personnel, motorists and business people thus making the area ungovernable.

Canon (rtd) Rev Chochoi, a community peace crusader from Tiaty West says there is very little effort in terms of arrest and recovery of stolen livestock, a situation that has given the heavily armed bandits courage to even kill security officers knowing very well nobody will pursue them.

Baringo deputy governor Jacob Chepkwony (middle) with National Rangelands Trust Tony Lalampaa displaying signed memorandum of Understanding between the county government, NRT and Community conservancies of Ruko and Kaptuya. PHOTO/Benson Kelio, The Scholar Media Africa.

Chepchomei who is also a village elder said that the government needs to change tact in its approach to insecurity after various interventions deployed failed to yield fruits by bringing a lasting peace in the region.

British High Commissioner Jane Marriot said that about 10,000 British troops train at the Nyati Barracks at the British Army Training Unit (Batuk) in Nanyuki, Laikipia county but refuted claims that their weapons were used in the Laikipia attacks which claimed eight lives.

“We do a 100 percent daily quantity check by individual serial number, and none are missing,” Marriot said in a tweet on Thursday.

The statement contradicts that of Natembea who earlier this week suggested that the bandits in Laikipia have M16 rifles usually used by foreign forces who train in the area.

However, three days later the regional commissioner recanted his earlier statements saying such weapons might have been smuggled into Kenya from unstable neighbours like Sudan and Northern Uganda.

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