19 March 2015

In Kenya's news: Will peace talks finally silence the Kalashnikovs of Kenya’s north?

A Turkana woman shows a bullet hole in one of her cooking pans

As cattle rustlers in Northern Kenya trade their bows and arrows for guns and bullets, villages and schools lay desolate and abandoned in the wake of their destruction.

Boundaries between communities are a source of constant conflict.
Baringo South, Turkana East and Baringo North are dangerous hot spots.

Plagued by armed cattle rustling bandits and bitter border disputes between the Turkana and Pokot, peaceful co-existance has been nothing more than a distant dream for a long time.

Deserted homes, vandalised schools and anxious faces greet you when you arrive at Arabal in Baringo South Sub-County. Since  2005, Arabal - like many other areas in Baringo South, Turkana East and Baringo North counties - has not known peace. 

Cattle rustling has left trail of death and anguish and those who choose to remain live in constant fear of attacks from armed bandits from neighboring communities. Schools remain closed after parents fled the volatile areas with their children in tow.

Baringo County Governor Benjamin Cheboi and Baringo South MP Grace Kipchoim toured Mochongoi area in Baringo South last week after 400 goats and 200 cattle were stolen. Cheboi urged the government to address the perennial insecurity menace in the area as it has become a roadblock to development, stating, “Many residents are now on the verge of starvation after their livestock, which is their main source of livelihood, was stolen by armed raiders.”

The valley of death
The ragged terrain of the expansive Ng’elecha Valley with abundant pasture and water is a perfect for cattle grazing, but it is also an ideal place for bandits to launch attacks. The bandits are reported to have converted deserted schools in the area into homes and cows sheds. The attacks have triggered a mass exodus with more than 200 households fleeing from the area stricken by conflict. According to Kipchoim, more than 53 people have been killed and another 12,000 people displaced from their homes since 2005. 

“Go to the valley of death at your own risk. It is quite painful for the residents to see their livestock in the hands of bandits and be unable to do anything about it.” 
~ Chepsoi

In Kapedo, the dispute between Turkana and Baringo counties concerning where the troubled Kapedo falls  came to a  head. The senators came face to face with the hostilities between the Pokot and Turkana communities. The Turkana refused to share seats with the Pokot forcing the committee to hear the views of the two communities separately.

The irate Turkana demanded to be told why the Pokot arrived at the venue on a lorry if indeed they lived in the area. At one point, the Baringo meeting which was led by Governor Cheboi, senator Gideon Moi, and Tiaty MP Asman Kamama was disrupted after irate members of the Turkana stormed it chanting slogans that Kapedo was theirs and questioning what their ‘neighbors’ were doing in their territory. “This is our land and the Pokot are taking advantage of our hospitality to claim ownership. This is unacceptable,” said Mr. Munyes. 

According to Tiaty MP Asman Kamama, all maps from 1900s indicate that the land in dispute was in Baringo and that the Turkana wanted to dislodge the Pokot because the area is rich in resources. “We are not on the border but right inside our land,” said Mr Kamama. He said that the investors feared that the geothermal project, oil and gold discoveries in the area would go to waste if security remained elusive.

Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, the commitee chairman, said they will visit all areas under contention in the country to understand the underlying issues in the perennial conflicts which have led to loss of hundreds of lives and displacement of scores of others from their homes.

According Senator Moi, the disputed land has been in Baringo County since time immemorial.

He blamed the rise in conflict on the anticipation on greed fuelled by the newly available resources.

“The scramble is purely for resources, especially considering that Geothermal Development Company is set to roll out a 6 billion Kenya shillings (66 million USD) investment in the area,” said Mr. Moi.

[article by Wycliff Kipsang, 10 March 2015, Daily Nation]

No comments: