Replace cowbell with GPS chip in combatting rustling
The banditry and cattle rustling in Kerio Valley is worrying. Last week, four herders were brutally murdered at Kapkobil grounds in Marakwet East constituency by cattle rustlers believed to have crossed over from Tiaty Constituency. At least 200 head of cattle were stolen.
Despite persistent acts of lawlessness along the Kerio Valley, security agencies are still applying the same methods in fighting the menace and expect different results.
It cannot also be denied that some political leaders or business people may be arming the raiders.
There is no way 50 people, leave alone 200, can group in one place and organise a raid without anyone smelling something fishy.
This is why in most cases, hundreds or thousands of livestock stolen by cattle rustlers are never recovered, begging the question: where are these animals taken? Do they just disappear into the thin air?
Those who commit these acts of lawlessness are not warriors in the traditional sense but economic robbers have commercialised cattle raids. That is why, contrary to tradition, they kill anyone whom they come across, including children and women, who have nothing to do with the raid missions.
But, whatever the motive of the rustlers, something terribly is wrong somewhere.
There is no way 100 cattle rustlers can stage a raid in broad daylight in areas with the presence of security personnel and make away with 200 or even a 1,000 animals without being detected, arrested or the livestock recovered.
Past security operations to flush out bandits or retrieve illegal firearms in Kerio Valley have yielded little or no fruits.
It is time the government considered changing tack, including using a Global Positioning System (GPS) to fight cattle theft and recover stolen animals.
In this system, a GPS chip can be inserted under the skin in one animal of the herd. The chip should be the modern cowbell.
With this system, it will be easier for provincial administrators to monitor the movements of animals in their jurisdictions.
A recent research by security and livestock experts has shown positive results.
What needs to be done is for all the provincial administrators, from County Commissioners to Assistant Chiefs, to be computerised and officers trained to deal with the problem using the latest technology.
Counties in the affected areas should support the national government by tagging all animals along the borders.
The tag numbers should be fixed on microchips attached to the animals and stored in a database for easy tracking.
The microchip should be able to show the routes used by cattle rustlers and traders all the way to the market or their hiding places.
In this connection, it would be easier for security officers to be able to track the movement of stolen animals using GPS.
As short-term measure, there is need for the reinstatement of police reservists who were recently disarmed and their welfare adequately addressed. Apart from equipping the reservists with uniforms and arms, their economic status should also be addressed to enable them be more effective in their work.
They should be paid salaries like the rest of security officers to boost their morale.
Those who lose their lives in the line of duty should be compensated just like other security personnel.
At the same time, national and county governments should turn rustling prone regions into agricultural zones through irrigation as long-term solution to insecurity. This would reduce over-reliance on livestock.
The government should come to terms with the fact that methods that it has applied in the past, from peace meetings, operations to flush out bandits and retrieve illegal guns, have not yielded fruits in search for lasting peace in the Kerio Valley.
Unless the government does things differently by adopting technology in the fight against cattle rustling, the menace will continue to be the order of the day.