Words from Kenya

Brazen and deadly: Today’s livestock raiders are often acting with extensive support and powerful backing.

Cows Guns and Trouble

This morning’s livestock raid in Burat, Isiolo County, was unusually brazen and ambitions. At around 7am a group of men attacked bomas at the western end of the hills that make the fine backdrop to Isiolo town. Reports suggest that there may have been as many as 100 involved in the raid and subsequent ambushes. Over 200 head of cattle were taken. Certainly they needed both a significant number of well armed men, and a great deal of confidence, to pull off such a large scale raid in broad daylight. Especially one so close to Isiolo town and all the security forces located there.

Normally raids are undertaken at night, often around midnight, giving the raiders plenty of time (under the cover and confusion of darkness) to get the livestock away from any pursuers. To raid livestock during the day, particularly in the morning when followers have the whole day before them, is generally only undertaken by people extremely confident in their supremacy in fire-power, or in their impunity.

When you take that many animals you can’t help but leave a very clear trail behind you. The attackers knew that they would be tracked and they prepared in advance, laying 3 separate ambushes along roads the trackers would need to follow. The trail ultimately led across the Ewaso Nyiro and on towards Wamba in Samburu East.

This was a well planned and executed attack. Which seems to fit with the theory that many of the people causing violence in Isiolo and Laikipia Counties in the last few months have had tactical training and financial support. It also says a lot about the current state of law and order in the area, and the apparent impunity of certain groups.

Isiolo’s County Commissioner George Natembeya blamed politicians for the deadly raid two weeks ago at Barchuma, on the Isiolo Marsabit border, that left 10 dead – Police blame politicians for Isiolo, Marsabit attacks.

The report – Cattle Barons: Political Violence, Land Invasions and Forced Displacement in Kenya’s Laikipia County – published earlier this week in the Star newspaper, looks in detail at the extent to which the violence seen in and around Laikipia North and neighbouring areas is supported by politicians and other powerful people.

There is also a great deal of doubt about the impartiality of organisations that are responsible for providing security, both those mandated by the government and those supported by NGOs. Local people seem to be left with little option but to protect themselves as best they can or to flee.

As I write the death toll from today’s raid is believed to stand at 6 people, with an unknown number of injured. At least one of those injured at the boma this morning was a child.

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