January 22nd 2018

Opinion / Commentaries

National leaders should shun, not court, Pokot politicians defending banditry

Lonyangapuo and Kamama should spare us the superfluous corner-cutting, unsubstantiated narratives of scapegoating and sickening defence of wrongdoers. If they can't, other right-thinking members of our society should treat them as outcasts.

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 11 Mar 2017 18:11 EAT

Deputy President William Ruto at Arabal, Baringo County, last month where he went to coordinate security operations against the raiders.

The unbridled wave of the banditry assaults and cattle rustling in some parts of North (semi-arid and arid areas) Rift has left us on the Tower of Babel. Not even the self-declared, razor-sharp security analysts rampant on our television channels can accurately tell what motivates and emboldens the attackers in their hideous and ruthless killing frenzy.

I have watched with the keenness of a mustard and listened attentively to what the political leaders of the hard hit region: Turkana, Marakwet, Tugen etcetera had to tell us on the national televisions interviews. The popular chattering classes are not always left behind whenever such debates are brought to the fore. They will tell us all manner of “analytical” hypotheses as if they were coming from that part of the “ugly” world the other day.

Wait a minute. Did you see man William Ruto engaging in some sort a “cat and a rat race” together with the mean-looking police boss, Mr Joseph Boinet, as they were scampering for their safety at Chesongoch centre (Elgeiyo/Marakwet county), as the cattle rustlers busied the Marakwet herdsmen in fierce gun battle? Little did I know that the DP was a sprinter, until I watched that clip.

Ladies and gentlemen, our leaders who regularly appear on the tellies purportedly to shed light on what is happening in the areas in question are, in my highly considered view, either clueless or evasive. Or apparently insincere, in the profound sense of this word.

This is why I'm compelled to think so. When a national leader in the stature of senator John Lonyangapuo makes such divisive utterances as “the government is heavily arming one community (read Marakwet) to fight another (Pokot)...”, “Marakwets have attacked Pokot community and driven tens of hundreds of animals...” and many other fabricated hollow arguments, you know that something somewhere is fatally wrong.

And yes, of course there's. Most of the leaders in Pokot community, just like every other political leader, are in hot pursuit of political ends. Which means, to easily achieve it all they need is move steadily along the grain of the community's desires and wishes. That is, facilitate the raiding of other livestock-keeping tribes for a herd of cattle or the likes!

This community's interests range from acquiring many heads of cattle, by any means possible, to meeting the deeply-held cultural demands. The yet-to-be ignored cultural practice of settling dowry payments and ready market for selling cattle have prodigiously contributed to the spine-tingling and nerve-jarring state of affairs in the banditry-prone areas.

The payment of dowry (bride price) in Pokot community costs an arm and a leg! For instance, some few years ago my good friend, Mr Lokorinyang' from Baringo East (Pokot), with whom I would shoot the breeze as I looked after our animals along River Kerio before I came to the city, thanks to education, used to reliably prove right what I had been informed earlier by my grandmother, who's well-versed with the Pokot's cultural practices, especially those centred around marriage.

I was told one needs to part with around ten cows, eight goats and some sheep as the bride price! Which sparks off the following queries: What would a son of man do to meet that number of animals, especially when he (the suitor) “germinated” from the humblest of the family backgrounds? Wouldn't they scale down the number of animals to at least, say, four cows, two goats and two or no sheep?

Well, we could rightly conclude that these kinds of archaic and antiquated cultural practices are incontrovertibly the real force behind cattle rustling. The youths, who're set to marry yet they don't kiss the ceiling of the minimum threshold, will have, by hook or crook, to follow some dicey and morally detestable trajectories of setting upon the peaceful neighbouring communities.

Yes, peace-loving communities in the sense that they embrace and preach mutual peace within and beyond their borders. The communities in the North Rift region that have, for somewhat donkey's years, borne the brunt of the devastating and debilitating atrocities meted out on them by the barbaric, brutish and bellicose Pokot invaders. They have been earnestly praying and supplicating for what has of late proven to be an elusive peace. Maybe one day their prayers will be answered, won't they?

Fast forward, in one of the television talk shows recently, the chairman of the parliamentary committee on internal security, Hon Asman Kamama, was asked to shed some light on the issues of insecurity along the Kerio Valley and other hard-hit areas. Guess what? The Tiaty constituency legislator who has been silent, by design or not, for a while as his people are widely castigated and condemned everywhere, largely for muddying the waters of peace and tranquility in the arid and semi-arid lands of our republic, could not answer satisfactorily some questions being asked.

If he scantily did, then the scale of incoherence and flip-flopping he exuded as he responded to what was asked is telling. Very very telling! The legislator is rumoured to be the largest beneficiary of the spoils of cattle rustling. According to my reliable source, whom I can't name for security reasons, the legislator, just like the former KANU stalwart Mr Francis Lotodo, has been providing market for the stolen livestock!

Which, by many standards, underscores why the Tiaty MP found it the toughest nut to crack to steadily and graphically explain precisely to Kenyans about this mind-boggling phenomenon. He smartly fathoms that exposing the magnitude of rot within his community is the surest means of consigning himself to political obscurity, and by extension banish his influence in the community.

By providing the necessary fodder for cattle rustling and using his privileged position of authority to suppress any thorough investigation that would possibly sustain prosecution and/or convictions in court, the Pokot political leaders know pretty well that they are dancing to the right tune. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When you see the West Pokot senator come out in zealous defence of his community, like what he blindly did recently, you would be better placed to rightly conclude that his political relevance hangs in the balance.

Who then should we lay blames on? The leadership. Generally, the leaders of this community understand better how to deal with the challenges confronting their people, but they have thought it wise to sweep them under the carpet, much to the advancement of their selfish individualistic interests.

This begs the sixty-four million dollar question: Is there an end in sight to this intricate web of cattle rustling, given the new dimensions it has taken of late? Someone whisper to these Pokot political elites that the glaring inconsistency with which they argue their points has nailed their bald-faced lies to the counter! Their excuses that ring hollow don't hold any water.

In a nutshell, Prof John Lonyangapuo and Tiaty MP Hon Asman Kamama should rise above their narrow political ends and stand to be counted as sincere agents of peace and reconciliation. They have to spare us the superfluous corner-cutting, unsubstantiated narratives of scapegoating and sickening defence of wrongdoers. If they can't, other right-thinking members of our society should treat them as outcasts.

Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

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