The sociology of insecurity: cattle rustling and banditry in North-Western Kenya

The sociology of insecurity: cattle rustling and banditry in North-Western Kenya

Serious changes are required in the Kenyan government's attitude towards pastoral groups to stop escalation of violence

Report from a study which analyses new forms of banditry and cattle rustling in north-western Kenya. It claims that that banditry and cattle rustling are serious threats to internal security, rule of law and democratic governance and that the roots of these new forms of violence and insecurity can be found in social, cultural, economic, political and historical factors.

The paper

  • provides a historical background of the pastoral economy and cattle rustling since pre-colonial times
  • discusses the causal factors of new forms of banditry and cattle rustling. Although most of these factors can be traced to the colonial era, the main focus is on the worsening situation in the last twenty years or so
  • summarises the socio-economic and political impact of banditry and cattle rustling
  • offers some possible solutions to the banditry and cattle rustling menace

Conclusions include:

  • cattle rustling has undergone fundamental transformation from a cultural practice to an international commercial venture organised and bankrolled by cattle warlords
  • the major losers in this environment of insecurity are the small and poor peasants who have been pauperised and turned into destitute, internally displaced persons and refugees in their own country
  • there is a significant connection between environmental conflict and the insecurity created by cattle rustling and banditry in north-western Kenya
  • the state has tended to ignore and neglect the welfare of the pastoralists in terms of development and the distribution of political and economic resources
  • official state policy based on negative perceptions of pastoralists has tended to view cattle rustling and banditry as a mere cultural problem of the pastoralists and not a serious issue of state security
  • state appropriation of pastoral land and policies to incorporate pastoral communities into the market economy has contributed to the emergence of cattle warlords and exacerbated insecurity
  • pastoralists shoud be assured of the continuation of their age old way of life and involved in decisions affecting them

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