Musa Radoli @PeopleDailyKe
They not only kill harmless residents, they also turn their guns on the security personnel. Women, children and the elderly are not spared as bullets fly across grass-thatched houses.
This is the brutal life of residents of North Rift and northern parts of the country as cattle rustling menace become a deadly multi-billion shillings business controlled by cartels. Trade is not restricted to Kenya.
The deadly business is carried out on both sides of Kenya and Uganda border. Cattle raiders are heavily armed mostly with AK-47 automatic rifles fully supplied with sufficient ammunition that they have refused to surrender to Kenya and Uganda governments. That is despite operations to get the guns from civilian hands.
When bullets fly killing civilians and security officers, thousands of livestock are stolen. In many cases hundreds in a single raid day or night.
Wanyama Musiambo, the former regional coordinator for the Rift Valley is on record as confirming the existence of cattle rustling cartels and warlords who run armed militias to protect their interests. “We have unearthed cattle rustling cartels in this region involving unscrupulous wealthy businessmen.
We are not going to spare them and will deal with them ruthlessly because they are the biggest security threat in this region,” he said before his appointment as Deputy head of Public Service.
Cattle rustling cartels are shadowy, highly secretive, but very lethal to any threat of exposure or interference to their business. Accusing fingers have been pointed towards senior government and even security officials and politicians as being part of the cartels.
Statistics from the department of livestock indicate farmers lose up to Sh3 billion to rustlers. The amount could be more considering the fact that there are many cases that go unreported.
People Daily investigations revealed that the reported loss is just the tip of the iceberg considering that rustlers and herders invest a fortune to protect their livestock and themselves.
The livestock targeted in this deadly game are cattle, especially the zebu breed for its beef, goats, sheep, camels and in recent raids even donkeys.
Heavy trucks play a critical role not only in transporting the stolen animals to markets over long distances, but also escaping from security forces. Rampant cattle rustling is entrenched in Pokot, Turkana, Baringo, Marakwet, and Laikipia counties with spillovers to the Karamoja region in Eastern Uganda, lower South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The notorious route for stolen cattle is through the porous boundaries of these countries with the ultimate destination being Khartoum in Sudan where livestock prices are quite high. The animals are slaughtered for export to North African countries and the Middle East.
It is from this destination that weapons are smuggled backwards to the source of the animals where the guns are secretly battered: a gun for a certain number of cattle, goats, or sheep depending on how the dealers agree. Insider sources speaking on condition of anonymity revealed that the stolen animals are also sold locally far away from the cattle rustling-prone regions.
The selling price of livestock in the local market depends on the location. The cost of zebu cattle ranges between Sh20,000 and Sh150,000. Zebu is a “hot breed” because of its succulent beef and ability to endure and survive under very tough conditions.
A senior security officer who declined to be named said: “We are aware of the fact that some of these stolen animals are slaughtered and the beef finds its way to highly lucrative markets in the Middle East where the population of cattle is minimal but the demand for beef very high.”
In his conversion with the People Daily Musiambo had said security has also uncovered a cartel that is believed to be behind cattle rustling in Laikipia and Baringo counties and spanning to the Kenya-Uganda and Kenya-South Sudan borders.
“According to intelligence reports, the suspects are part of a cartel that sponsors cattle rustlers with firearms and lorries to ferry the animals to slaughterhouses in different areas,” he said. He said police are tracking cattle raiders who stole animals from 15 ranches in Laikipia County this year.
The county’s ranches bore the brunt of the rustling last year. According to Kenya Human Rights Commission, there is evidence that organised crime groups are becoming more adept at exploiting criminal opportunities that present themselves in remote rural areas of northern Kenya.
It says there is increasing evidence that cattle rustling is becoming a more organised and sophisticated crime that is planned and implemented by networks of entrepreneurs.