Crushing banditry first step in ending impunity

Monday, February 20th, 2023 10:00 | By
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki at a past function. He says the government will use all means possible to ensure that bandits are brought to book. PD/File

After weeks of hesitation and brazen provocation from bandits in the North Rift, the government has finally acted decisively. A multi-agency security force, which includes the military, has entered the vast wilderness of the targeted regions of the North Rift, where bands of brigands have roamed free for decades, wreaking havoc and destroying lives and livelihoods. That whole region has been a wasteland since independence.

Listening to the former Rift Valley Regional Commissioner and now Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya, it is very clear the reason why banditry in this region has thrived for so long is because local leaders, in cahoots with top security officials, have provided the cover for the bandits to operate. He disclosed the motivation behind the banditry is a huge commercial operation to capture livestock to feed the ravaging meat markets in Nairobi. He should know, having been the head of security committee for that region.

In a word, the bandits have been operating with complete impunity. Impunity has been the bane of Kenya. It has brought Kenya to its knees. Too many leaders act with zero accountability irrespective of the laws they break, or how many times they break them.

That’s why somebody will commit treason and swear themselves in as president. Nothing happens to him. That’s why leaders will be providing arms to bandits to kill and pillage.  Nothing happens to them. That is why people murder others. They just get away with it. It is rare for murderers in Kenya to face justice. That is why corruption and abuse of office is rampant. Perpetrators have no fear. You name it!That is why the biggest challenge of President William Ruto’s presidency is not the bankrupted economy, itself a function of this very impunity. It is the return to the rule of law. A return to personal accountability and culpability for actions people take, whether by acts of omission or commission.

If the President does not shepherd the country back to the rule of law, then all his efforts to recalibrate the country to wrest it from the grip of oligarchs and cartels and give Kenyans back their country will fail! Nobody should be spared, including his own allies. That is why the country is in such a mess.

He needs to map out the most egregious and debilitating impunity and dismantle its kingpins. He has started with banditry and payment of taxes. He needs to equally tackle all  abuse of office, especially by public servants to enrich themselves, as a matter of priority.

Back to the ongoing security operation. It must be ruthless, and final. But that will just be the beginning of restoration of that vast region that time forgot. To adequately address its  development needs, the Government should create a ministry for rejuvenation of the North Rift.

Draw up a Marshall Plan for the region. Keep it under the state of emergency for the next five years to facilitate deployment of resources on a priority basis. Mobilise the military and National Youth Service to go in there and put up infrastructure including roads, farmlands, wells, airports, and  bush clearing.

Erect modern towns to facilitate trade, set up police stations, and tarmac trunk roads that open up the entire region. Erect stock markets and ban trading in livestock through other avenues outside this until banditry is declared as dead.  Harness the international community to give impetus to the rebuilding, as they can assist in provision of universal education, health and other social services to all citizens of the region.

Banditry in the North Rift has gone on for too long. Cries by the beleaguered innocent people of the North Rift have been ignored by successive governments all the way from Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president.

If Ruto wants to carry all Kenyans  into the new dispensation he has promised, then this is one campaign he must win.

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