Former Inspector-General, National Police Service, David Kimaiyo
Legal Legislation is Key to Curbing Cattle Rustling
There has been furor over resurgence in cattle rustling skirmishes in recent times in the country, especially in Kerio Valley between the Pokot and Marakwet communities. This challenge is common in pastoralist areas that until now have not experienced much shift into modern development. The residents of such areas still depend on traditional means of livelihood that are a mark of perfect pastoralism economy, albeit in decline.
Safeguards have been introduced to mitigate the effects of cattle rustling in arid and semi-arid lands that include policy legislations towards development in rural areas which in the 1980s focused on district focus for rural development and quasi-disarmament efforts. The concept of arid and semi arid lands too gained currency in the 1990s just as decentralization of resources have been pursued in the first decade of 21st century and also the 2010 constitutional dispensation that ushered in devolved systems government in underdeveloped and marginalized areas in the country.
Such efforts into stemming cattle rustling and its worst effects have borne little fruit. Thus even the security organs have experienced disproportionate effect of the same cattle rustling they are trying to control. Killing and wounding of police officers, herdsmen and other civilians; disruption of humanitarian efforts; raping of women; preventing children from accessing education; burning of houses and destruction of other properties are some of the common cruelties unleashed by cattle rustlers. They precipitate some form of terror that is more feared and curtails ambitions for a promising future in the country – this has seen massive internal displacements that in turn have put pressure on state coffers, which in essence could have been used to provide services like health care among others.
Attempts have been made towards finding solutions on the same. These solutions include peace meetings in pastoralist areas. More focus was given to initiating development in such cattle rustling prone regions by promoting both intra- and inter-regional infrastructure, sharing of intelligence, community policing and nyumba kumi initiative, free primary education. The need for development in such regions has been hailed as the best way to curb the menace of cattle rustling. While I agree that development is urgently needed, I tend to think that promoting the rule of law is not incompatible with seeking development. There is no way that development precedes security. The two can only go hand in hand or at the very least peace should come before – as it is commonly known that where there is peace there is development, where there is insecurity there is no development.
It is against this backdrop that I seriously advocate for a legal legislation that shall impose punitive action against cattle rustlers, their sympathizers, and financiers because cattle rustling has been commercialized. In the near past Parliament and regional bodies have sought to draft a particularly cattle rustling bill and other legislations that are non-binding and unenforceable such as Nairobi Protocol on Prevention and Eradication of Cattle Rustling. A few days ago there was also a proposal in parliament on setting up Cattle Rustling Fund. The fund would go a long way into compensating victims of cattle rustling and also enable the constitution of necessary infrastructure and facilities towards preventing cattle rustling. The Fund should be anchored in the law in order to annually obligate the Treasury into budgeting for it.
All these are good suggestions and attempts, most of which have been tried before but have not done much to prevent cattle rustling in pastoralist regions in the country. The need to focus more on punitive cattle rustling legal legislations and to create awareness among the residents of affected regions to observe the rule of law should take precedence. However, this should serve as a precursor to encouraging development in such regions, especially by the county governments.
Therefore, the Government should prioritize resolving cattle rustling problems in the country because they promote tribal animosities that might trigger an uncontrollable chain of violent intera-state, inter-tribal and inter-clan clashes, or that terrorists might take advantage of the general lawlessness common in pastoralist regions.
Former Inspector-General, National Police Service
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