An Open Letter from Cattle Rustlers to President Kenyatta

BY EVANS KASMAI KIPTULON

moran

Dear Mr.President,

On behalf of all the bandits and cattle rustlers who can’t read and write, allow me to sincerely and humbly pass this letter of their cry to you, Mr. President.

First, receive our many greetings, your excellency. Pass our greetings to our beloved First Lady Margaret and tell her that her initiative of delivering medical equipment to Chemolingot District Hospital has saved the lives of hundreds of women, children, people with disability and other vulnerable groups. Thank you mama!

But my point in writing this letter today, Mr President, is not such a happy one. I feel that our leaders, your colleagues, might not have been entirely honest with you. So I took it upon myself to introduce to you these people who have been stereotyped in the news as cattle rustlers and bandits in Baringo County.

We are collectively knows as the Pokot in Baringo. We mainly live in Tiaty, an area of 4516.8 square kilometers. This is more than half the total area of Baringo County. At 150,000, we are few people. The Pokot culture is deeply rooted in pastoralism. Our attitude towards and perception of cattle can only be compared to that of the modern society towards gold or money. We believe,therefore, that all cattle in belong to us.

The Pokot community view livestock as the only solution to their problems. Wealth and personal status is measured in terms of how many livestock (cattle, camels, sheep and goats) and how many women one has.

The cow, also known as (Tany or Chemang’any) in Pokot is the highest valued animal on earth. This is because it is our lifeline. It is the only source of my food, my wife and my children. Pokot morans, therefore, believe that it is better to die than live without cattle since the land is already unproductive.

More so, the Moran considers it the greatest honor to die in pursuit of cattle! Simply put, I can’t do without cattle. It is a spiritual matter, a matter of life and death. This is the reason they will do all whatever it takes to get this precious gold; be it from the government armory or outside their own villages.

As a learned son of a reformed bandit, Mr. President, I am crying against the government negligence, polarization and politics over banditry and cattle rustling. But beyond this, allow me to propose a few effective ways to resolve the perennial problem of cattle rustling :

  1. Massive infrastructural development in East Pokot. Access to water alone is enough to change everything among the Pokot people. We propose an Operation Leta Maji, supply water for our cattle, irrigate the land for cultivation. The Chinese, who have become our darlings of late, can design wonderful here. Water could be harnessed from Lake Baringo to change the lives of people for good. The lake is a sleeping lifesaving giant. Please use it.
  2. Crack down on all illegal guns and install proper policing in the region.  The KPR (Kenya Police Reservists) are never a good solution. The government needs to be close to the people. As it is currently nobody even knows where to report a rustler because there is no police station among the Pokot people.
  3. Forceful education for all under 18 years boys and girls. The young ones are the future bandits and cattle rustlers. In fact, among the Morans, the sharpest shooters and savagest killers are the young lads. If you cared to pay attention, you will realise that cattle rustling is more common among the under 20s.
  4. Kill the domination of one tribe in the leadership of Baringo County. There is big big big problem and bad feeling with Baringo county leadership because one tribe has dominated. Given the background challenges already mentioned, the Pokot people are less likely to get county elective seats. The playing field is not even, hence creating a vacuum of under-representation of other tribes. Power-sharing through a negotiated democracy would be best in such a system where we have many different tribes occupying the same county but only one dominating leadership.
  5. All alternative forms of livelihood should be encouraged and incentivised by the government.
  6. Animal insurance should be rolled out and promoted in the region to cushion animal farmers from the shock of losing their livestock.
  7. The National Youth Service seem underutilized in the region. This is greatest asset we hve in our collective efforts to change our country. It has the capacity and machinery. The servicemen should be used to drill boreholes, make roads and even live with these communities as part of encouraging lifestyle change. We should borrow, not just a leaf but a whole tree, from Nigeria NYS System.

Thank you Mr. President, for sparing your few minutes to consider my letter and the proposals therein. Looking towards the future, East Pokot should serve as a pilot study in order to change situation among other Kenyan pastoral tribes. We should not just wait until similar people in other areas get to the end of their rope and get violent.

I know you have the power, Mr. President. If the country was able to build the Standard Gauge Railway, surely this is much simpler and cheaper project.

Thank you. I looking forward to meeting you one day.
EVANS KASMAI KIPTULON

Mr Kiptulon is a former Public Health Nurse at Kenyatta National Hospital and is currently a student at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He hails from East Pokot, Baringo County.

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Educated Savages: Why Enlightened Kenyans Resort to Primitive Acts

A question that has probably lurked in the mind of anyone who has followed the unfolding story of bullying at Alliance High School is this: How could students who perform so well academically descend to such depths of brutality?
Senior counsel John Khaminwa (left) tries to calm a charged lawyer, Edwin Sifuna, after chaos erupted during the Law Society of Kenya's Annual General Meeting on March 21, 2015 at Hilton Hotel as the society's president Eric Mutua (far back) looks on . PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Senior counsel John Khaminwa (left) tries to calm a charged lawyer, Edwin Sifuna, after chaos erupted during Law SOciety of Kenya’s Annual General Meeting on March 21, 2015. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The name Alliance High School is synonymous with academic excellence in Kenyan secondary school education. It is the school that every hard-working Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidate dreams of attending.

Some of the most notable minds in Kenya’s public offices were honed in Alliance High School. From former Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, Senators Amos Wako and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, to veteran newspaper editor Philip Ochieng, just to name a few, the school boasts of being the anvil upon which great minds were shaped.

This is why the recent bullying incident came to many outsiders of the school as a great shock. But the incident is neither new nor isolated to those who attended the school. It should not be news. The famed “monolisation” has been a rite of passage in Kenyan secondary schools for decades — and Alliance High School was no exception. So why the gasps from those outside looking in?

The incident has made headlines for two main reasons. First, social media and easily accessible camera phones ensured that the public got a sneak preview into what goes on inside our high schools. I bet this was not even the first time someone has bled from a bullying experience. But it was the first time images of the same made it out of the school compound.

The second reason the story made headlines is that Alliance High School has the reputation of being the tower of academic excellence in Kenya. For some strange reason, we tend to associate academic brilliance with civility. It seems obvious enough. We consider ourselves better than the caveman because we are “more educated” and civilized. But is this true?

Brainiacs

If our members of parliament are anything to go by, we should be very wary of correlating academic achievement with civility. We have all seen the numerous episodes that have occasioned the favorite newspaper headline “Drama as MPs….” And if that example seems like an outlier, we all remember what happened at a Law Society of Kenya meeting when some members demanded a building project.

There is no scientific evidence to support the common assumption that education will inoculate human beings against their baser savage selves. Education may make us more sophisticated in how we express that violent side of us, but it in no way guarantees world peace.

The term brainiac, which was first used in the Superman comics as the name of a supremely intelligent alien character, is derived from a blend of brain and maniac. Even the most educated of us are not immune from brainiac tendencies. In fact, they may be the most savage since they are more able to justify their behaviour and reason or argue themselves out of any wrongdoing.

Bullies are us

But we should not be surprised that students students in Alliance High School are bullies any more than we should be surprised that some students in the same school have a flu. Bullying happens when young people direct towards their peers frustrations, hurt, anger and difficulties at home or in class.

Bullying happens when young people lack attention from friends, parents or teachers. They will bully just to get a high, feel popular and be seen as ‘tough’ or ‘cool’ and in charge. Bullying happens when bad upbringing at home makes young people insensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions. They are happy to see their classmate depressed, sad and hurt.

The news about bullying in Alliance High School is a few decades too late. It should not be news. But the story of educated people behaving badly is as old as the age of humanity. It should not surprise us at all.