Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has said that 15 cattle rustlers were arrested over the weekend in an operation to recover illegal firearms in the Trans Mara region in Narok County.
Matiang’i said that the cattle rustlers have been behind theft along the Kisii, Nyamira, Narok, Bomet and Migori counties’ borders.
The Interior CS said that the operation which was launched when he toured the Trans Mara region was intended to ensure that the residents of the five counties stayed in harmony.
“The Government will continue with the operation until we arrest all the cattle rustlers and recover all illegal firearms which have been used to commit crime in the region and create ethnic animosity,” said Matiang’i.
The Cabinet Secretary said that so far 100 firearms and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition have been recovered in Trans Mara and that they were being used to terrorise residents in the five counties.
The firebrand CS said that the Government was determined to ensure that the residents of the five counties coexisted in harmony and that those in possession of illegal firearms would not be allowed to cause anarchy among various communities.
Kenya’s pastoralist communities have long considered cattle rustling a cultural practice, according to a 2011 Kenya Human Rights Commission report.
In the past, warriors would wield crude weapons such as spears, swords and bows and arrows to steal livestock, but they rarely killed people.
Livestock is a symbol of wealth; stealing cattle was considered a means to elevate one’s status.
But in the past few decades, in West Pokot, Narok, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana and Samburu counties, in northwestern and central Kenya, cattle raids have escalated, fuelled by the proliferation of small arms smuggled into the country.
A 2015 Kenya Police report indicates that cattle raiders’ weapons originate from neighbouring countries with internal strife, particularly Somalia and South Sudan.
In recent years, the raids have grown deadly, with a sharp rise in the number of people killed during attacks.
Gangs of gun-slinging raiders usually storm villages at night, shooting people on sight before driving away entire herds of cattle, sheep and goats, leaving entire communities devastated.