When I started researching cattle rustling and its myriad prognosis, mutations, and derivatives, a couple of years ago, I was dumbfounded.
First, majority of the few researchers then could not distinguish between cattle rustling and cattle raids and made no discernible effort to.
Secondly, the cultural association of the violence attached to cattle rustling was all too agreeable to others.
Switching from traditional weapons including spears, bows, and arrows to automatic weapons was seen as an extension of modernisation or a simple transition to modernity.
Thirdly, it was not appreciated that despite the transformation traditional cattle rustling took, the rules towards contemporary cattle rustling drastically changed, fuelled primarily by the ‘Moroto’ incidence.
I decided to do a historical analysis and discovered that these communities had undergone a metamorphosis.
The inter-communal cultural raids or exchanges of yore that were heavily regulated by taboos, customs, traditions and most importantly time and rarely involved the use of violence or spilling blood especially of women and children, had over time degenerated into murderous unregulated thieving and rustling sprees.
Cattle rustling has always been a major security threat experienced in about 27 countries in Africa. In Kenya, the severely affected are West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana and Samburu counties.
The continued proliferation of small arms and weapons smuggled into the country has increased the frequency of raids and also resulted in increased deaths, displacements and destruction of properties. The situation is exacerbated by perceived marginalisation.
A report by IGAD 2017 showed that in the years 2014-2017, the total livestock lost was estimated at a cost value of Sh6.05 billion while the cost of displacement in terms of compensation and offering support to the affected people was about Sh37.27 billion.
These criminal acts have caused the hindrance to development in these areas as they lag behind the rest of the country in infrastructure, education and health services.
Most of the mitigation strategies adopted have been found weak to curb the menace.
Rustling has been commercialized resulting in growing markets for livestock. Secondly, such attacks are no longer coordinated by elders but rogue politicians and local leaders. The widespread poverty and unemployment have also contributed to this.
If these factors are properly placed on check, cattle rustling will be in our past.
However, such cases are unlikely to reduce if we use the same hard power and reactionary skills that follow a major incidence and public outcry. To permanently deal with the issue or reduce it drastically, the government and other stakeholders can however use a combination of soft, hard and soft solutions.
Firstly, disrupting the stolen livestock markets is key, as the markets thrive due to high supply of stolen cattle which are sold or battered for weapons at cheap price.
It can involve building a database for all livestock which will make tracing and identification of livestock easier.
This animal census can be an opportunity to put chips and other RFID equipment and technologies in all the cattle, sheep and goats.
The importance of the uniform and regionally reviewed and ratified Mifugo Protocol cannot be underemphasized as a market disruptor.
Secondly, establishment of military bases to help in addressing perennial insecurity in the areas. Doing so will be more efficient as the bases will improve security, boost economy and development, create job opportunities and build the infrastructure.
Three permanent military camps can be established from Suguta Valley to Tiaty to Turkana. This will not only open up the areas but also bring development.
Coupled with this, one of the Deputy Inspector General of Police can be centrally placed in the Pokot Operation area with about 5,000 police officers with the sole mandate to assist in crushing the menace. These officers should be adequately compensated for the period they are posted in the operation zone.
Lastly, the government needs to consider placing all school going children from Pokot, Turkana, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet counties aged 10 years and above and those who have undergone the circumcision, and other rites to boarding schools. Special emphasis needs to be placed on the boychild.
All other male aged 18 years and below should be placed in mandatory National Youth Service programs for resocialization and re-education.
Building more boarding schools and other accessible educational institutions in these areas also makes those who want to go to normal schools not travel long distances.
This special emphasis on education will ensure that the next generation will look outward towards a growing global and technological world, not towards a retrogressive culture.
Written by Dr. Andrew Kimani a security expert and practitioner. His research has been instrumental in revamping, reviewing, and ratification of the Regional Mifugo Protocol. He is an adjunct lecturer at Muranga University of Technology.