Pastoralist Leaders Challenge the National Police Reservists Disarmament in Pastoralist Counties of Kenya
On 23rd of May 2019, the Office of the Inspector General issued a press statement that it had dispatched to the North rift, a “high-level security team comprising the Secretary of Internal Security, GSU Commandant, and the RDU commandant… as a precursor of stiff measures set to be undertaken to curb further escalation of the sad state of affairs”
The government cited concern with the ongoing deteriorating security situation in the counties of Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana and Laikipia, due to cattle rustling and other criminal activities.
Consequently, Pastoralists Parliamentary Group (PPG), led by the Patron Hon. Aden Duale and the Chair Hon. Alois Lentoimaga, MP and the Frontier Counties Development Council (FCDC), led by H.E Josphat Nanok, Turkana Governor, organized a joint response at an Iftar dinner meeting on the 28th May 2019 at the Radisson Blu hotel in Nairobi.
The objective of the meeting was to thoroughly discuss the ongoing disarmament of the National Police Reservists (NPR) in some parts of the pastoralist counties – north rift in particular – and agree on a common position for promoting peace and security in the region in absence of NPR guns.
The pastoralist leaders were gravely concerned about the fact that nearly all the pastoralists areas in Kenya have collectively suffered protracted decades of insecurity and poor management of the situation. The leaders said that the security managers should cease perceiving the criminal practice of cattle rustling as a cultural issue. They said such laxity has extended to other forms of violence, ranging from attacks by known terrorist groups, to neglected inter-community disputes and other forms of violence and crimes.
“We can no longer sit and not do anything about the current situation in Marsabit. What is the need of PPG when we cannot unite our people? We cannot lament and cry. Now is the time to tell the government and our people what needs to be done. And it need to be done urgently.”
– Naomi Waqo, Nominated Senator and Chair, PPG Women Caucus
During the meeting, majority of the leadership present said they were opposed to the ongoing NPR disarmament in pastoralist areas; mainly on grounds that it is being done hapharzardly, and that there was no prior consultation with elected leaders before the exercise began. It is critical that the leaders are informed before such sensitive security information is conveyed through the leaders before prior communication to the leaders of the targeted regions.
“We are opposed to the ongoing disarmament exercise in our counties, unless national government guarantees the safety and security of our people.”
– Hon. Catherine Mukenyang, Speaker of West Pokot County Assembly
All the other leaders who spoke at the meeting expressed doubt on the assurance provided by the government. They said that security must first be beefed up in hotspot areas before the NPR guns are withdrawn. The information provided that the areas are now secure is not based on facts and there is no evidence that the security in those areas have been beefed up. Many places are exposed to criminal elements after the withdrawal of NPR guns.
The leaders said that it is the responsibility of the national government toprovide adequate security for all Kenyans, and pastoralists needs guarantee for their safety and of their property in the same measure as other parts of Kenya.
In Lodwar town in Turkana County, most of the business premises have enlisted the services of NPR for protection of their property, despite the presence of the regular police. This is a clear testament that NPRs – despite the various problems plaguing them – are trusted more by the local communities than the regular police. The withdrawal of guns from the NPRs have left certain parts that solely rely on them vulnerable to threats and aggression. Disarmament in international border places such as Kibich and Moyale town should not have been done haphazardly, but in phases.
NPRs play a critical role in safeguarding community livestock and maintenance of general security, identifying and tracking illegal firearms held by the pastoralist communities, and has been commended for providing first line of response during attacks. Despite the fact that NPRs perform the same duties as national police officers, they are rarely appreciated or recognized. It is a surprise that NPRs have been accused of misusing firearms to commit crime or even in some instances using the legally issued firearm to gain money through escort and guarding services, when the regular police do the same thing regularly.
Recognizing the role played by KPRs and NPRs in maintaining law and order in areas with no regular police and sparsely served by other government security agencies is critical. It is imperative that the government deploys more security officers in the areas where KPRs and NPRs were recently disarmed to assist with maintaining the law and order. There are communities that are already fully armed with illegal weapons, and in such areas, they do not feel the effect of withdrawing the firearms from the NPRs but it is those areas with majority law abiding citizens without illegal guns that will be mostly affected.
Hon. William Kamket, MP for Tiaty said he represents a heavily armed constituency and his people are tired of guns in the hands of the civilians.
“Want to see all citizens of this country live in gun-free neighborhoods. The guns should only be left in the hands of the police officers and KDF soldiers. NPR are actors in community conflicts. In Tiaty constituency, there are more than 700 NPRs guns that are regularly used to terrorize not only the people of my constituency but also other fellow communities in the same county opposed to politicians. Arming of the communities to fight each other is a very wrong policy in the first place.”
– Hon. William Kamket, MP Tiatiy constituency
The role of PPG as the largest political caucus in Kenya must be felt on matters of security and peace in the region. NCIC said, PPG and FCDC has collective power that it can deploy and use it to influence these counties and they should hold its members accountable on matters of building peace.
PPG should be at the forefront in bringing social cohesion in the pastoralist region, and it has power to do exactly that. The members of PPG Executive members were requested to step up and play active role in creating opportunities for mediating and create platform for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in all existing conflicts among its members and the pastoralists communities.
It was agreed that the Political leaders must resist temptation and any undue influence and desist from situation where people and fragile livelihoods are used for political mileage that the politicians have come to be known for. PPG should embrace a culture of tolerance of divergent views. The stage for the candid discussion at the Iftar meeting that openly talked on issues related to role of the politicians and peace building was triggered by the Leader of Senate:
“We, the leaders should not look for votes with people’s blood. We need to speak strongly against what is happening in pastoralist areas.”
– Kipchumba Murkomen, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator.
Senator Murkomen recognized that a number of the insecurity incidences have been blamed on the political leadership, either as the sponsors of raids, as just by-standers or as inciters who pit communities against each other. However, he emphasized that such narrative should not be advanced as an excuse for the national government that we are part of for its inaction on matters of peace and security in the pastoralist areas for long time now. There are many political leaders that are using their influence to foster peace and social cohesion within and amongst pastoralists. Good practice example is evident in the relationship between a section of Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet leaders.
The PPG Patron Hon. Aden Duale requested all members of PPG and FCDC Governors available in Nairobi to meet with the Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Fred Matiang’i and Inspector General Mr. Hillary Mutyambai on 29th May 2019 at Harambee House from 8.30 am.