Deep Inside Politics Lies Ungovernable and Wild Frontiers of Kapedo.


By Tioko Ekiru Emmanuel

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.

Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that…The chain reaction of evil-hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars-must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation”.

Martin Luther King Jnr.

The scale of deadly attacks reported from Kapedo village, Turkana East every year is shocking, horrible and terrible. From time to time, Kapedo has been in the headlines as the subject of national platform. The main intention of the ruthless bandits patrolling in this region is to convert it into a “no man’s land,” and, “a major hotspot of violence.”

The merciless killing occasioned to school going children among other civilians at Ameyan, Baringo County is not something new in these ungoverned remote jungles. It exhibits seemingly unstable age we live in today.

In November 2014, twenty-one police officers lives were cut short by suspected bandits hailing from the neighboring county. Back mid-November 2012 a similar inhuman massacre of forty- two Kenyan police officers was carried out ‘in Suguta Valley, and perhaps what is probably being viewed as the most deadly attack on police forces in Kenya’s history is but a drop in the ocean’ compared to the daily suffering and killing of the population residing in these regions.

Indisputably, the persistent and changing level of armed violence in these nomadic regions is attributable to the political factors inherited from both pre-colonial era and advent of multiparty clamour in Kenya.

An anatomy of rapid violence is linked to more general shifts in the political landscape that are part of Kenya’s troubled nation-building process. The profound case to justify this is evidently founded in the early 1990s clashes which rocked many parts of Rift valley with ethnic population, Maasai and Kipsigis warriors teaming up to raid neighbouring Kikuyu ,Luhya ,Kamba and other farming communities in rurals like Molo and the Naivasha hinterland. These clashes subsequently stretched to Laikipia, where Samburu and Pokot retaliated by attacking Kikuyu who had settled there as small-scale farmers as a result of Post-independence land reforms. Further, in January 1998, the clashes were experienced in Ol Moran, a small town in Laikipia when Pokot and Samburu warriors raided Kikuyu farmers leading to the killing of two people and burning down of some houses. A counter-attack by the Kikuyu farmers on pastoralist settlements was ambushed by well-armed Pokot and Turkana warriors who massacred a large number of Kikuyu youth.The report of the Judicial Commission appointed to inquire into tribal clashes in the country (the Akiwumi Report) establishes that the conflicts between these communities were instigated by ‘unsavoury and inflammatory statements by politicians.

These inflammatory statements flowing out of Politicos and top government functionaries in modern Kenya are clear sources of rivalry among the warring communities.

Researchers have emphasized the changing nature of cattle rustling. Attempts to explain this have been pointed particularly to the increased proliferation of sophisticated automatic rifles such as the AK-47.A number of authors working with the available data from the 1990s add to this another dynamics: the professionalized marketing of stolen animals. While in previous decades the stolen livestock was redistributed or used to pay bride prices, rustling has more recently turned into a form of organized crime. This entails the commercialization of stolen animals, and includes actors from outside the pastoralism system. Dylan Hendrickson and colleagues describe this as a shift from ‘redistributive raiding to ‘predatory raiding’. On the other hand, raids have been interpreted as an ideal driven by male for their own prestige.

In his immortal words, Lemukol Ng’asike,‘ wrote one of the electrifying masterpiece epitomizing the bloodbath in the so called Northern Frontiers Districts as “northern Kenya war economy”-which is a three- leveled game .He described aptly banditry as a sophisticated chain of political profiteers, well-connected pool of business-people dealing in livestock business and at the bottom of it is a mass of gun-wielding foot soldiers.

Clemens Greiner, a researcher at the Department of Cultural and social Anthropology, university of Cologne, Germany in his compelling work, ‘ Guns, Land and votes: Cattle Rustling and the politics of Boundary(Re)making in Northern Kenya’ has put a strong case study to show the nexus between politics and violence. He asserts that livestock raiding among northern Kenya’s pastoralists has changed profoundly in the last decades. Further, he effectively point out that livestock raiding is a game that has taken new dynamics of modern weaponry and extreme violence angle enmeshed in politicized claims over administrative boundaries, struggle for exclusive access to land and attempts to establish or safeguard an ethnically homogeneous electoral base. As such conflicts have been branded as part of Kenya’s troubled politics of decentralization.

Cattle rustling, raiding, theft, robbery, clashes, terrorism are all forms of conflict, deviant behavior traits and patterns that do not conform to societal norms. Due to their persistent nature, these forms of violence need to be elevated to the status of ‘crimes against humanity’.

Moreover, the act of violence involves brutal and reckless murder, ‘ethnic cleansing’, criminal marketing chains, and highway banditry, as well as ordinary petty theft, thus it is commonly lumped together and labeled as ‘cattle rustling’ or ‘cattle raiding’.

Needless to point, Pastoral-ism in East African dry lands is undergoing rapid transformations. In these processes, issues of territoriality emerge as main arenas of contestation. The breakdown of traditional governance structures has led to power vacuum that is increasingly filled by political leaders and other power brokers, who grasp the opportunity to renegotiate boundaries and access to land. These leaders have realized that on the national platform level ethnic mobilization has played a major role in political struggles and they carry these dynamics even into remotest pastoralist areas, where the struggle for land is progressively ethicized.

Instructively, most authors who emphasize ecological rather than cultural factors as root causes of livestock theft present one of two strands. One strand holds that the pastoralist areas are characterized by scarcity of pasture and water and that the struggle for temporary access to these resources leads to conflict. The other, root in non-equilibrium ecosystems approaches, highlights the necessity of recuperation of livestock numbers after drought-or disease-included losses as motivation for raiding.

From a simple inquiry, livestock raiding has emerged as a specific form of violent regulation: a well-adapted, crafted, motivated, engineered, dangerous, and powerful political weapon to hoodwink and blindfold the pastoralists who are regarded to be highly illiterate. To illustrate this best in these conflicts prone-zones it is young men who do not necessary follow political aims, but are likely to be motivated by cultural and economic factors took part in the war.

Raiding from other aspect has been portrayed as a maladaptive cultural institution in which the value of cattle is placed above that of human beings.

A clear hint of insecurity dimension escalating between Pokot and Turkana is about the ownership of Kapedo village, which has remained the main centre of contestation and endless disputes of ages. On top of it there is mass killings and large-scale displacements almost on daily basis. Children have become homeless and orphans in large numbers, graves are everywhere, fear is the order of the day and the region mostly has become a formidable and battle hardened ethnic war machine. And so the first question to ask ourselves, ‘who will redeem Kapedo from hungry wolves called bandits?

In the last decade the Pokot have conquered territory that stretches far into former Turkana territory and they have turned Kapedo into their battle field and virtual Turkana bridgehead, which according to them it has to be eliminated completely.

Besides, the boundary dispute, a new –frontier of contestation has emerged to fuel the going conflict along the Pokot-Turkana border. The Successful oil-prospecting missions and a proposed geothermal power plant have increased the appetite of ownership from both sides. A matter that is yet to find a suitable remedy.

Kenya’s insecurity in the past has been a big threat to progress and development. The insecurity cases shaping up every day in Turkana, West Pokot, Mandera ,Garissa, Lamu, Kwale, Tana-River ,Nairobi and Wajir is worrying and disturbing. As a result the episode is mutating to be one of the dangerous monsters in the face of human race, leave alone unchecked cancer or HIVand AIDS.

Surprisingly, the elephant in the room remain untouched. The government response, reaction and preparedness to deal with these backward oriented crimes is questionable. Instead the above mentioned regions have been turned to “slavery, “ungoverned”, and, “punishment zones”. Unfortunately, often times when a nation feels that it is under siege, especially on matters of security, the government is normally seen masquerading to suspend fundamental freedoms and liberties in the name of maintaining national security and keeping everybody safe.

There comes a time when then cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. The state should stop burying its head on the sand. The preservation of life, welfare and liberties of individuals is its core obligation.

One thing that must sink deeper to the mind of the government is that the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 was not intended to be a lofty and mere aspirational instrument. It must bite every impunity patrolling our borders with ill-intention. The constitution in its opening credo signal our collective pursuit to create a just society of our dreams founded in common quest for human dignity and equality: that we would value and celebrate diversity, entrench constitutional democracy in which fundamental rights and freedoms are held dear. In the classical sense our constitution is an embodiment of a radical transition from the edge of the cliff of violence, authoritarian madness, hatred and chaos. All this explains why the preamble of our constitution is crafted in profound terms carrying a strong national message, ‘we the people’.

In light of the foregoing, the Pokot-Turkana war is age monster of years driven by greedy, disastrous, ruthless and highly illiterate bandits with one fixed mindset- shot to kill. One of the central levers in these conflicts prone- zones is contestation of boundaries and resources entitlement. Further, the strong statements emerging from top politicos and government machineries have been established to be main key drivers tormenting the pastoralist regions. As such these conflicts have been remarked as part of the Kenya’s troubled nation-building process, right from multiparty advent.

Consequently, these conflicts serve as instructive reminder to government to wake up from its deep slumber to its primary constitutional duty of protecting the welfare and liberties of all citizens regardless of their social class, background or status. The Kapedo rapid killings should be eye opener for the state to pursue its constitutional role as envisaged in Article 238 of the constitution which proclaims that National Security shall be promoted and guaranteed subject to the authority of the constitution. Further, it states that national security shall be pursued in compliance with the law and utmost respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Tioko Ekiru Emmanuel is LLB Student from Moi University school of Law. He is currently serving as the President Law students’ Society of Kenya (Lssk)-Annex chapter in the same university.