The Departmental Committee on Administration and Internal Security has agreed with the Elgeyo Marakwet Governor, Wisley Rotich that banditry should be classified under acts of terrorism to curb the vice and the impunity that has characterized it over the years.
Speaking when the Committee paid a courtesy call on Governor at his office in Iten town, the Committee Chairperson Hon. Gabriel Tongoyo (Narok West) noted that the Committee would recommend that the anti-terrorism law be amended to include banditry in a bid to escalate the war against the decades long menace.
“We are in the process of compiling our report after today’s visit. We have so far visited the six counties prone to banditry and witnessed firsthand the effects of the decades long menace. We shall be making a recommendation that banditry be treated as an act of terror to curb impunity”, Hon. Tongoyo told the Governor and his team.
Hon. Tongoyo was echoing the sentiments of the Governor who made the proposal to the Committee . Governor Rotich observed that banditry which was initially regarded as a cultural sport has degenerated into a full-blown criminal activity with many casualties.
He told the lawmakers that while many security operations had been carried out in the area for years, they had not yielded much, and the vice had only escalated leaving many dead and impoverishing his County residents.
“Hon. Chair, many people have in the past regarded banditry as a cultural sport. It has however resulted to many deaths, more than terrorism has done. Why would Parliament not classify it as an act of terrorism yet it has the same impact? Governor Rotich wondered.
He lauded the Committee for taking the initiative to get to the root-cause of increased insecurity in the region and gave his committment to support any Parliamentary resolutions geared towards building peaceful coexistence among communities living in the Northrift Region.
He called for affirmative action to enhance literacy levels within the areas prone to cattle rustling as a means to systematically eliminate the practice from the Region. He noted that efforts to support education initiatives in West-Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet had yielded fruits leading to a significant decrease in the number of young people who want to join the trade. He recommended that the government embraces the same for Tiaty Constituency in Baringo County whose residents he attributed the increased insecurity in the region to.
At the same time, while addressing the press after the meeting with the Governor, Hon. Tongoyo cautioned political leaders from the region against perpetuating banditry and other forms of insecurity for political expediency. He warned that the Committee would not hesitate to name any such leaders and to recommend that serious action including prosecution be instituted against them.
Earlier while meeting the Deputy County Commissioner Mr. John Chirchir, the Committee was told that though the security situation had improved since the deployment of police reservists, the criminals had not turned against security officers.
Mr. Chirchir told the Committee that ongoing security operation in the area had reduced banditry and rustling activities. He cited the flourishing of economic activities along Kerio Valley and Kolowa market following coexistence of Marakwet and Pokot Communities as a sign of improved security situation. He however warned that the current situation could be short-lived.
Asked to highlight challenges experienced by the county security team in their efforts of restoring peace and security, Mr. Chirchir cited the rugged terrain, inadequate strength of personnel in Police posts and camps, inadequate resources for the operation and delayed payment of Police reservists.
Others were the protection of criminals by the Communities, tendency by residents to exaggerate number of stolen livestock hampering recovery and unwillingness by communities to identify stolen livestock within their locality.
Weighing in on the deliberations, Committee Members Hon. Dido Rasso, Hon. Caroline Ng’elechei, Hon. Mburu Kahangara and Hon. Fred Kapondi called on the Government to change tactic and deploy new strategies of fighting crime in the area.
“Singular deployment of security officers arbitrarily will not bring about the peace we are rooting for. We need to adopt an intelligence-led disarmament program and deploy formed-up units to synergize the security operation”, observed Hon. Dido Rasso.
The Committee which is on its second day of fact-finding mission on the security situation in the county is set to visit the hotspots of Arror and Tot this afternoon.