On behalf of all the bandits and cattle rustlers who can’t read and write, allow me to sincerely and humbly pass this letter of their cry to you, Mr. President.
First, receive our many greetings, your excellency. Pass our greetings to our beloved First Lady Margaret and tell her that her initiative of delivering medical equipment to Chemolingot District Hospital has saved the lives of hundreds of women, children, people with disability and other vulnerable groups. Thank you mama!
But my point in writing this letter today, Mr President, is not such a happy one. I feel that our leaders, your colleagues, might not have been entirely honest with you. So I took it upon myself to introduce to you these people who have been stereotyped in the news as cattle rustlers and bandits in Baringo County.
We are collectively knows as the Pokot in Baringo. We mainly live in Tiaty, an area of 4516.8 square kilometers. This is more than half the total area of Baringo County. At 150,000, we are few people. The Pokot culture is deeply rooted in pastoralism. Our attitude towards and perception of cattle can only be compared to that of the modern society towards gold or money. We believe,therefore, that all cattle in belong to us.
The Pokot community view livestock as the only solution to their problems. Wealth and personal status is measured in terms of how many livestock (cattle, camels, sheep and goats) and how many women one has.
The cow, also known as (Tany or Chemang’any) in Pokot is the highest valued animal on earth. This is because it is our lifeline. It is the only source of my food, my wife and my children. Pokot morans, therefore, believe that it is better to die than live without cattle since the land is already unproductive.
More so, the Moran considers it the greatest honor to die in pursuit of cattle! Simply put, I can’t do without cattle. It is a spiritual matter, a matter of life and death. This is the reason they will do all whatever it takes to get this precious gold; be it from the government armory or outside their own villages.
As a learned son of a reformed bandit, Mr. President, I am crying against the government negligence, polarization and politics over banditry and cattle rustling. But beyond this, allow me to propose a few effective ways to resolve the perennial problem of cattle rustling :
- Massive infrastructural development in East Pokot. Access to water alone is enough to change everything among the Pokot people. We propose an Operation Leta Maji, supply water for our cattle, irrigate the land for cultivation. The Chinese, who have become our darlings of late, can design wonderful here. Water could be harnessed from Lake Baringo to change the lives of people for good. The lake is a sleeping lifesaving giant. Please use it.
- Crack down on all illegal guns and install proper policing in the region. The KPR (Kenya Police Reservists) are never a good solution. The government needs to be close to the people. As it is currently nobody even knows where to report a rustler because there is no police station among the Pokot people.
- Forceful education for all under 18 years boys and girls. The young ones are the future bandits and cattle rustlers. In fact, among the Morans, the sharpest shooters and savagest killers are the young lads. If you cared to pay attention, you will realise that cattle rustling is more common among the under 20s.
- Kill the domination of one tribe in the leadership of Baringo County. There is big big big problem and bad feeling with Baringo county leadership because one tribe has dominated. Given the background challenges already mentioned, the Pokot people are less likely to get county elective seats. The playing field is not even, hence creating a vacuum of under-representation of other tribes. Power-sharing through a negotiated democracy would be best in such a system where we have many different tribes occupying the same county but only one dominating leadership.
- All alternative forms of livelihood should be encouraged and incentivised by the government.
- Animal insurance should be rolled out and promoted in the region to cushion animal farmers from the shock of losing their livestock.
- The National Youth Service seem underutilized in the region. This is greatest asset we hve in our collective efforts to change our country. It has the capacity and machinery. The servicemen should be used to drill boreholes, make roads and even live with these communities as part of encouraging lifestyle change. We should borrow, not just a leaf but a whole tree, from Nigeria NYS System.
Thank you Mr. President, for sparing your few minutes to consider my letter and the proposals therein. Looking towards the future, East Pokot should serve as a pilot study in order to change situation among other Kenyan pastoral tribes. We should not just wait until similar people in other areas get to the end of their rope and get violent.
I know you have the power, Mr. President. If the country was able to build the Standard Gauge Railway, surely this is much simpler and cheaper project.
Thank you. I looking forward to meeting you one day.
EVANS KASMAI KIPTULON
Mr Kiptulon is a former Public Health Nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital and is currently a student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He hails from East Pokot, Baringo County.