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The Banditry Question in the North Rift

Banditry has over decades caused untold suffering characterized by many deaths and injuries on the people of Baringo, Kerio Valley in Elgeyo Marakwet, and other affected counties including West Pokot, Laikipia, Turkana, and Samburu.

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The security situation in Baringo County presents a grave concern, as what were previously isolated incidents have now proliferated across various wards, including Saimo Soi and Bartabwa in Baringo North, and recently extending into Baringo South’s – Mukutani ward, Tiaty East’s Kolowa, and Ribko wards, as well as neighboring counties of Turkana and Elgeyo Markwet.

Escalating disputes over water, pasture, suspected boundary issues, and cattle rustling have led to significant displacement, overall impacting at least 4,500 households. According to a report by Kenya Red Cross, between January and March 2024, an estimated 2,951 households are displaced, 43 fatalities have been reported, 27 injuries and 2 people reported missing.

In February 2023, the brazen attacks by the bandits on both civilian and security personnel prompted President Ruto to convene a meeting with the County officials and security personnel in the statehouse, Nakuru, during which he ordered a joint operation between the National Police and the Kenya Defence Forces to root out the bandits, beginning the Operation Maliza Uhalifu. However, a year after the operation was launched, there is little to show for it.

Residents continue to flee homes, tens of people are killed and now learners and their teachers are keeping off school. During the first term of school, at the beginning of this academic year, at least 19 schools were closed indefinitely in a span of three months in Baringo North following banditry attacks in the region.

As such, this raises the question of the government’s effectiveness in dealing with the insecurity issue as schools reopen across the country, yet learners in 20 schools including Sibilo Secondary School, Sibilo Primary School, Koroto Secondary School, Koroto Primary School, Biretwonin Primary School, Akorayan Primary School, Moinonin Primary School, Chepkwel Primary School, Kosile Primary School, and Ng’aratuko Primary School have been heavily affected, owing to widespread fear and panic leading to population movement, livelihoods loss, disruption of markets/trading centers, and key access roads affected.

The current security situation remains dire, affecting lives and communities across multiple fronts. The number of households displaced has increased compared to any recent years’ events and this calls for even more concern. Discussions need to be had on the best approach to address the crisis, drawing concentration from a heavy-handed approach to more humane strategies.

“The government can make it compulsory for children to attend boarding schools and are absorbed into the police service or military when they come of age as a long-term solution to this problem,” a police officer argues.

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