Tag Archives: Pokot

Kenya – police says elections will be peaceful in violence-prone counties

Daily Nation

Saturday March 18 2017
Many have died from banditry this year in Baringo County

Police officers escort women and children out of Mukutani centre in Baringo County on March 15, 2017, to a safer area. Many have died from banditry this year. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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Rift Valley will have peaceful elections despite the current insecurity challenges in some regions, the government has assured.

Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo said security departments have intensified operations to ensure peace prevails before elections.

“Security agencies are ready for the elections. We are working hard to ensure that a repeat of 2007/08 post-election violence does not occur,” Mr Musiambo said on Friday.

He was reacting to the recent banditry attacks in Baringo, adding the police are making a positive progress in curbing insecurity incidences.

According to him, the re-opening of three schools that had been closed due to insecurity was a positive sign.

Parts of Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Pokot and Laikipia counties have been worst hit by insecurity leaving dozens of people dead and scores injured since January.

The most recent attacks happened on Wednesday where 11 people were killed by suspected Pokot bandits who raided Mukutani village in Tiaty.

Most affected were women and children, some who are fighting for their lives in hospitals.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday ordered the deployment of military forces to the troubled North Rift region to help police restore law and order.


Kenya declares national emergency to cope with drought


Samburu pastoralists are allowed access on January 24, 2017 to dwindling pasture on the plains of the Loisaba wildlife conservancyAFP

Kenya’s president has declared the drought, which has affected as much as half the country, a national disaster.

Uhuru Kenyatta appealed for international aid and said the government would increase food handouts to the most needy communities.

Kenya’s Red Cross says 2.7 million people face starvation if more help is not provided.

Other countries in the region have also been hit by the drought, blamed on last year’s El Nino weather phenomenon.

In Somalia, nearly half the population is suffering from food shortages and the UN says there is a risk of famine in several parts of the country.

During the last drought on this scale in 2011, famine killed about 250,000 Somalis.

In a statement, Mr Kenyatta said the government had allocated $105m (£84m) to tackle the drought which has affected people, livestock and wildlife in 23 of Kenya’s 47 counties.

“Support from our partners would complement government’s efforts in mitigating the effects of drought,” he said.

Mr Kenyatta added that all purchases of food and other items would be made in a transparent way.

“I will not tolerate anybody who would try to take advantage of this situation to defraud public funds,” the president said.

Behind the conflict in central Kenya that’s costing lives and hitting tourism earnings

The Conversation

Many pastoralists in central Kenya lost access to their ancestral pasture lands in the early 20th century. Reuters/Siegfried Modola

Armed pastoralist groups have, over the past few months, forcefully moved their livestock herds onto ranches or conservancies in Laikipia, central Kenya. Property has been destroyed, wildlife killed and tourists have been caught up in the clashes.

There is a simplistic assumption that this is due to an ongoing drought or that the cattle raids are part of traditional pastoral conflict. It’s true that the pastoralist march on private land is in part for grazing and water. But in fact their actions are also a form of resistance to an unequal distribution of resources.

Laikipia is an area characterised by valuable resources and diverse communities. This has created a complex political story with its roots in resource and land grabbing, political wrangling and human-wildlife conflict.

Land distribution

Land-based grievances are what could have triggered these recent invasions. 2017 is an election year in Kenya and these are often used in political campaigns. They have already been witnessed in Isiolo – an area that neighbours Laikipia – where, conservancies are also being invaded by pastoralists, spurred on by local politicians. This political dynamic can also be seen in Laikipia.

These grievances are an easy rallying cry as many pastoralists in the area lost access to their ancestral pasture lands in the early 20th century when British imperialists forcibly removed the Maasai pastoralist community from the Rift Valley and Laikipia. They were moved to the area now known as the Maasai Mara, near the border of Tanzania.

What ensued created a mosaic of land tenure arrangements. The Maasai’s relocation enabled European settlement and agricultural production in the favourable ecological conditions of the Rift Valley – an area which came to be known as part of the “White Highlands”. Africans were restricted to certain areas, largely based on ethnicity.

When independence came, it signalled the move towards individual land rights and redistribution schemes. But these schemes were criticised for putting land into the hands of a few political elites. In Laikipia, the majority of Kenyans were settled on smallholdings in the west, or remained landless. Group ranches, where a group of people collectively own freehold title to land, were set up predominantly in the north while some private ranches from the colonial period kept their land.

Human-wildlife conflict

Over time conservation areas – or conservancies were set up. These were either former ranches that moved into wildlife management or were set up by a community. Laikipia has an abundance of wildlife and these areas act as a form of public private partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service. They are mandated to manage Kenya’s wildlife and offer tourism opportunities which can attract premium prices.

But the conservancies have created conflict with some surrounding communities. There is deep inequality within Laikipia between those who reap the benefits of wildlife and those who bear the costs.

Due to the land arrangements, many smallholders in Laikipia are situated outside the conservancies or within wildlife migratory corridors. As a result, they suffer both livestock or crop destruction. For privately-run conservancies there are concerns that this is a legitimate way to concentrate large tracts of land and valuable wildlife-related economic activities in the hands of a few individuals.

Also troubling is the use of National Police Reservists by private conservancies. These scouts are private employees. But they are armed by the government through the national police reservists initiative for the purpose of maintaining “wildlife security”.

The scouts are empowered to use violence to stop poaching, but also act in security matters beyond the conservancy of their employment, such as tracking raided cattle. This has the potential to escalate conflict between private and public interests.

Political dimensions

Today the conflicts are also overlaid with corruption – particularly the misappropriation of funds that could have been used for rural development. Instead they serve political interests with some benefiting financially from the raids.

The raids have become a political tool for those looking for votes in exchange for water and pasture. And so, fuelled by the proliferation of arms within pastoral communities, some politicians reportedly use their positions to incite their constituents to take up arms and lay blame for the lack of resources elsewhere. Cattle raids are therefore often perpetrated by criminal gangs with links to corrupt government or political actors.

Previous disarmament programs have sought to address the arms problem but have been criticised for the excessive use of force by police or military. They have also been criticised for leaving disarmed communities vulnerable to attack by those communities that haven’t been disarmed.

A solution?

This is not a new issue. There have been many incidents of invasions throughout the past few decades. However, the continual framing of these invasions as responses to drought fail to address the underlying dimensions of resource distribution. Short-term programs to address famine and drought do not guard against future invasions.

They will continue to occur in the absence of genuine conversations about issues of governance, the sharing of benefits and resource management in Kenya. Rainfall and ecological conditions simply act to exacerbate the tensions.

Until governance issues such as corruption, policy, security, management of resources and development within rural areas are addressed, the conflict will continue.

Kenya  – Pokot herdeland invasions continue around Laikipia


There’s a standoff at Suyian Ranch.

For the past week traditional herdsmen have invaded the land, burned down the tourist lodge and brought in thousands of cattle to steal pasture.

Now police reinforcements have arrived and from the overlooking escarpment are trying to decide how best to restore law and order.

Suyian Soul tourist lodge – known locally as “Anne’s Camp” – is overwhelmed with cattle picking through the charred remains of the looted buildings.

“We don’t allow people to just walk onto the land,” said Anne Powys, whose family has lived on this 44,000 acre farm for more than 100 years and is used to making grazing deals with the neighbours.


Tourist lodges have been looted and burned

“We’d been talking to the local community for two months, but the young warriors who were driving the cattle came and said ‘we don’t want to speak to anyone, we’re coming to take the grass, by force, so don’t get in our way.’

“We realised that it wasn’t them but local politics had changed their minds and that was disappointing.”

The anti-stock theft police moved in, but in the confrontation a young man was killed, sparking an escalation – now the herdsmen have built cattle kraals and moved in.

At sunrise on a clear day, the sharp peak of Mount Kenya frames the horizon.

Giraffes, elephants and buffaloes are among the wildlife browsing the acacia bush.

For the past week traditional herdsmen have invaded the land, burned down the tourist lodge and brought in thousands of cattle to steal pasture.

Now police reinforcements have arrived and from the overlooking escarpment are trying to decide how best to restore law and order.

Suyian Soul tourist lodge – known locally as “Anne’s Camp” – is overwhelmed with cattle picking through the charred remains of the looted buildings.

“We don’t allow people to just walk onto the land,” said Anne Powys, whose family has lived on this 44,000 acre farm for more than 100 years and is used to mak

A parched savannah grassland rolls off far into the distance. Laikipia County is a vast but harsh place to raise cattle, needing careful management to avoid overgrazing.

Tens of thousands of extra cattle belonging to Samburu, Pokot and Laikipiak Maasai pastoralists destroy the delicate balance, tearing through the landscape, consuming every piece of pasture and moving on.

Approaching the squatters is difficult – we tried to speak to herdsmen but they are armed, and suspicious of our intentions they fired shots at our car.

Other herdsmen we spoke to blame failed rains: “It’s because of drought,” said John Lapollei, who was illegally grazing his cattle on a nearby farm.

“This is the only place there is pasture, the only place we can bring our cows,” he said, aware it was against the law but willing to risk arrest by an under-resource

Herders say drought is forcing them to resort to illegal grazing

The commercial farmers blame overgrazing and poor management for destroying previously fertile pasture.

“It’s not about drought. The reality is there are too many people and too much livestock and it’s a global thing,” said Anne Powys, who blames climate change for more extreme weather.

A local politician has encouraged the herdsmen to take over the land using racially charged language – white Kenyans own most large farms.

Elections are a few months away and politics here are tribal and ruthless.

“It’s not about white ranchers – it’s about the whole community. There’s a landscape of different peoples here who are suffering,” said An

Conservationists say overgrazing will degrade the land

Large ranches owned by black Kenyans and many smallholders have also been targeted.

“People have been misused and told to go and destroy property – destroy the wildlife – try to destroy the livelihood of the place so you can take over.”

A little further north at a large watering hole on Mugie Ranch, where buffaloes and elephants usually drink and tourists come to visit, there are cows as far as the eye can see, and more on the way.

“The damage occurring with the large number of stock at the moment is catastrophic,” said Jamie Manual, who looks after the wildlife.

“The land will be overgrazed and degraded and this will turn to a situation where we have a disaster on our hands. A lot of wildlife will die through starvation through a lack of grass in the conservancy,” he said.

Dead elephant

Wildlife that come into conflict with the herders have been killed

The cattle make their way to the water around the carcass of an elephant killed in a clash with herdsmen.

“We’ve had a lot of incidents now where wildlife has come into conflict with herders and it results in a gunshot, a spear or a poison arrow.”

It’s a short drive to another carcass – a large bull elephant killed the day before – both have had their tusks removed.

“In amongst them are people who target elephants for ivory. We have lost seven elephants, seven are wounded and we are expecting to uncover a lot of other carcasses,” said Jamie Manual.

Samburu herderImage copyrightAFP/GETTYK

Farmers say local politicians have encouraged traditional herdsmen to encroach onto their land

At Suyian Ranch there’s still uncertainty over how the invaders will be driven away and where they will go next.

And it’s not just here – other farms in the area have been hit. Maria Dodds at Kifuko farm is living under siege.

Thousands of cattle are illegally occupying her land and many of her staff have fled after coming under fire on most days of the last three weeks.

The farmers broadly praise the local police, but say they don’t have the resources or the numbers to confront the heavily armed pastoralists and restore law and order.

Samburu herdsmanImage copyrightAFP/GETTY 

Kenyan police do not have the resources to confront herders

The national response has been slow, despite updated travel advice from the British High Commission about the clashes.

Laikipia is one of Kenya’s most popular tourist areas, and many business owners are afraid that if the pastoralists are not stopped, the violence could spread and the economy could be badly affected.

Those already hit warn that unless the government takes decisive action, the land invasions will spread and the crisis deepen.

Anne Powys hopes it can still be resolved through dialogue.

“Even having lost my camp we are still willing to talk to our neighbours. We’re going nowhere and neither are our community,” she said.

Why Kenya’s cattle raids are getting deadlier

Al Jazeera

The infiltration of illegal firearms has led to a rise in violent cattle raids.Pastoralists are now arming themselves.

An armed herder from a village in Baringo County drives his cattle to grazing fields [Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera]

Baringo County, Kenya – On a morning in mid-November, 16-year-old Richard left his father’s cluster of huts with a loaded AK-47.

He drove a dozen cattle from their village of Sinoni, in the hilly region of Mochongoi, along a footpath snaking west through shrubs. He was headed for grazing fields by a river which divides his Tugen and the Pokot tribe.

Richard, like most herders from his village, takes a gun whenever he drives cattle to the river.

He keeps his gun cocked: one bullet in the chamber, eight more in the magazine. He always runs into Pokot herders by the river, and although they have never attacked him, he needs to be prepared. Pokot raiders have stormed his village in the past.

“You never know when they will turn on you, kill you and take your livestock,” says Richard, who gave only his first name out of fear of being arrested for owning an illegal firearm.

In greater Baringo County, where the land, arid and rocky, is non-arable, the majority of Tugen who live there have traditionally been livestock farmers. Once nomadic, these days families usually live in one place, while herders, mostly men, move in search of pasture and water.

Kenya’s pastoralist communities have long considered cattle rustling a cultural practice, according to a 2011 Kenya Human Rights Commission report. In the past, warriors would wield crude weapons such as spears, swords and bows and arrows to steal livestock, but they rarely killed people.

Livestock is a symbol of wealth; stealing cattle was considered a means to elevate one’s status.

But in the past few decades, in West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana and Samburu counties, in northwestern and central Kenya, cattle raids have escalated, fuelled by the proliferation of small arms smuggled into the country. A 2015 Kenya Police report indicates that cattle raiders’ weapons originate from neighbouring countries with internal strife, particularly Somalia and South Sudan.

In recent years, the raids have grown deadly, with a sharp rise in the number of people killed during attacks. Gangs of gun-slinging raiders usually storm villages at night, shooting people on sight before driving away entire herds of cattle, sheep and goats, leaving entire communities devastated.

According to the most recent Kenya Police report from 2015, more than 24 people were killed in cattle rustling violence in that year, while nearly 25,000 livestock were stolen in 56 raids. Yet local media reports suggest that the number of people killed could be far higher. In May 2015, AFP reported that 75 people were killed over a period of just four days.

In November, Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, oversaw the destruction of at least 5,250 guns recovered over the past nine years, a fraction of the estimated 500,000-plus illegal firearms in the country – most of which are owned by pastoralists. Disarmament efforts have so far yielded little progress.

Mochongoi lies where much of the violence is concentrated: along the borders between the districts of West Pokot, home mostly to the Pokot tribe, and Baringo in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Herders there, tired of waiting for the government’s help, feel they have no option but to arm themselves. They buy AK-47s, but also more powerful guns such as M16s and G3s, to protect their families, their livestock and also to take back their stolen animals.

A herder from Sinoni village heads towards grazing fields by a river which divides his Tugen and the Pokot tribes [Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera]

In the mostly lawless Suguta Valley, an area which the local media have dubbed the “Valley of Death”, the ethnic Turkana, Samburu and Pokot are both victims and raiders, and cattle rustling has led to revenge attacks. The area goes unpoliced after one of the deadliest attacks on Kenyan police in 2012, in which 32 policemen pursuing stolen cattle were ambushed and killed.

Day-time raids

Sixty-year-old Arap Chebon Lochumunyang’, a cattle owner from Richard’s village, home to about 200 people, says that the Endorois (a Tugen subtribe) did not own guns for a long time and were frequently attacked by armed Pokot bandits, who had earlier access to guns.

In the past five years, the Tugen started arming themselves. While raiders often come at night, they sometimes strike during the day.

It was a sunny afternoon in March 2015, when, just as Chebon was just sitting down to a meal at home, he heard a burst of gunfire.

His eldest son, 35-year-old Elijah Nasorot, also heard the shots. He ran with his AK-47 to confront the gunmen while his parents, children and two wives headed in the opposite direction into the hills, driving their livestock, some 50 cattle and 100 sheep, as fast as they could.

As the villagers fled, Elijah, his brothers and about 20 young men from their village fought the Pokot attackers. There were more than 50 raiders; they often strike in large numbers.

Two hours later, the guns fell silent.

The men from Sinoni, some wounded, had lost and escaped from the village. The better-armed, battle-hardened cattle raiders stole hundreds of livestock.

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After the fight had ended, a young man who had fought alongside Elijah came to Chebon with bad news.

“He told me that my son had been shot and had died on the spot. It was very painful to lose a son at such a young age,” says Chebon, a tall man with stooped shoulders, whose son had five children all under the age of ten.

With difficulty, Chebon arranged his son’s funeral from the bush. When the time came to bury Elijah, the mourners emerged from hiding to hurriedly conduct the funeral on a slope near his home.

Afterwards, people from Sinoni and from neighbouring villages, fearing more attacks, went to stay with relatives in the hills of Mochongoi, while some men remained at Sinoni.

That night, gunmen struck again. They killed an elderly woman who had stayed at home and took more livestock.

Arap Chebon Lochumunyang’, 60, and his wife sit outside their house in Sinoni village. Last year, two of Chebon’s sons were killed in cattle rustling-related attacks [Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera]

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Cycle of violence

The violence has affected the everyday lives of the people who live in Kenya’s cattle-raiding areas.

People have been displaced, impoverished and children’s schooling disrupted. A once busy livestock market at Kapindasum village in Baringo County has been deserted for the past year because of the violence. The people of Sinoni and the surrounding villages also burn wood to sell as charcoal – displacement has made it hard to continue this practice.

Cattle raids have led to prolonged and bloody clashes between communities as aggrieved villagers often try to retake their livestock.

“I have lost friends and neighbours in battle when we go to recapture our livestock,” says 36-year-old Sinoni resident Noah Kibaron, who says he has fought in 27 gunfights while defending his village or retrieving stolen animals.

Three days after Elijah’s funeral, Kibaron, and Tugen youth from Sinoni and other villages, went on a mission to steal back the livestock from the Pokot.

They tracked the raiders and took them by surprise while they were out herding the stolen animals. A gunfight ensued and three Pokot men were killed. As the Pokot ran for backup, Tugen men drove the livestock back to Sinoni.

They managed to recapture dozens of cattle, but the Pokot decided to pursue them later that day.

That afternoon, Chebon’s son Nelson Nasorot hired a motorbike taxi to take him the town of Marigat, about 50km away, where he planned to buy household items for his family.

He did not know that a group of Pokot warriors was pursuing the recovered livestock and the herders.

They spotted the motorbike and its Tugan passenger and shot from behind, killing Nelson immediately.

“It was more than painful. I can’t even describe how it felt to lose two sons in such a short time. I was devastated,” says Chebon, whose family once again came down from the hills to hold a funeral.

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According to Kibaron, the guns are readily available, but are expensive.

“The AK-47 goes for 80,000 shillings ($800) and is sold by people we know. Some sell a bull or sheep to buy one,” he says.

Kibaron says he does not know who exactly sells the guns, but alleges that they’re brought into the town of Rumuruti in bordering Laikipia County by Somali traders who come to buy cattle at the market.

“I think the guns come from Somalia and South Sudan,” he says.”That is what I have heard people saying.”

Despite their high price, almost every herder in Sinoni and the neighbouring villages owns guns. Their livelihood, supplying major towns with livestock for slaughter, means they can often afford to buy at least one gun per herder.

Bullets are also expensive. Richard, who at eight years of age learnt how to use the family gun bought by his father, says the bullets cost 100 shillings ($1) each. He said he has to be careful not to waste the rounds.

Kibaron and Richard allege that the bullet sellers get some of their supply from the police. Residents of Sinoni believe corrupt police officers stationed in camps in cattle-raiding hot spots sell ammunition to both raiders and herders.

They also believe that some of the Pokot thieves are hired to raid by wealthier livestock owners.

“We once found a very new gun on a raider we killed. They have a lot of bullets and can fight for very long, unlike us who have very little bullets because they are expensive. I think there are rich people who provide them with guns and bullets,” Kibaron says.

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Arap Chebon Lochumunyang’ points to the grave of his eldest son Elijah Nasrot. The 35-year-old was killed during a cattle raid on their village of Sinoni in March 2015 [Anthony Langat/Al Jazeera]

Neglected by the government

With raids occurring several times a year and sometimes as often as a few times a month along the border area between Baringo and West Pokot, the government set up two police camps, including one last year near Sinoni.

The residents of Sinoni village, however, feel that the police are not doing enough to stop them from being attacked. They say the police fear the bandits, but also have little motivation to do their job because of isolated and poor working conditions – many deployed police are reportedly junior officers and don’t have adequate food or water supplies.

Chebon says that the police have yet to investigate his sons’ killings and that his cattle have never been recovered.

The people of Sinoni feel marginalised and neglected by the government.

“Nobody is looking after us here. We are on our own and that is why people are buying guns,” Chebon says.

In April last year, Kibaron called the police camp, located just three kilometres away, while their village was being attacked.

“It was around midnight and they told me they were coming but they didn’t show up until eight the next morning,” he says.”They came, picked up bullet casings from one of the homesteads and left.”

Earlier this year Sinoni residents returned to their village in the warmer lowlands. Chebon says their cattle were dying in the cooler climate of the hills. But they feel uneasy at home. Chebon wishes that the government could provide adequate security for them.

Al Jazeera contacted the Kenya Police twice requesting an interview, but did not receive a response.

Chebon is not opposed to disarmament, which has been successful in parts of West Pokot on the Kenyan-Ugandan border, where the two governments worked together.

“If it is done for everybody so that we all do not have guns and can’t steal from one another, then we can rear our livestock without fear,” he says.

Cattle raids have left many pastoralists in Kenya’s north poor and the victims have had enough.

“I was once rich, but I now have very few cattle,” Chebon says.”We are tired of running away from home and losing livestock and children.”

Follow Anthony Langat on Twitter: @ AntonyKip

Kenya – two dead in Marakwet-Pokot clashes after Pokot attack viullage

Star (Kenya)

Sep. 16, 2016, 9:00 am

A file photo of three illegal guns recovered from raiders suspected to be from Pokot North i  2015. Photo/Maryann Chai
A file photo of three illegal guns recovered from raiders suspected to be from Pokot North i 2015. Photo/Maryann Chai

Two people were shot and killed on Thursday after a gun battle between two communities in Kaben location, Elgeyo Marakwet county.

The dead are said to be from the Marakwet and Pokot communities.

Area police boss Emmanuel Rono said an unknown number of Pokot attackers invaded Kaben village where they killed one man.

He said Marakwet youth retaliated and shot dead the Pokot attackers.

“We have enhanced patrols in the area. We are expecting additional officers to effectively manage the situation,” he added.

Read: Three chiefs sacked over Kerio Valley skirmishes

Unlike previous banditry attacks, Rono said no animals were stolen, which has led to confusion over the motive.

The attack occurred less than 24 hours after a joint peace meeting held in Baringo East. Elders were tasked with calming youths in the area.

Also read: 400 police officers sent to Kerio Valley to keep the peace, recover stolen cows