Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Terrorism? I don't think so

For long, Pokot people have wrecked (sic) havoc & terror on all its neighours. Entire Pokot Community must be labeled & treated as terrorists. @DonaldBKipkorir
Section 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (No. 30 of 2012), defines, in part, a "terrorist act" as,
[ ] an act or threat of action (a) which (i) involves the use of violence against a person; (ii) endangers the life of a person, other than the person committing the action;(iii) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; (iv) results in serious damage to property;(v) involves the use of firearms or explosives; ... (ix) prejudices national security or public safety; and (b) which is carried out with the aim of (i) intimidating or causing fear amongst members of the public or a section of the public..
The Penal Code defines "robbery" as, 
Any person who steals anything, and, at or immediately before or immediately after the time of stealing it, uses or threatens to use actual violence to any person or property in order to obtain or retain the thing stolen or to prevent or overcome resistance to its being stolen or retained, is guilty of the felony termed robbery. (Section 295)
It describes the penalty for robbery as follows,
(1) Any person who assaults any person with intent to steal anything, and, at or immediately before or immediately after the time of the assault, uses or threatens to use actual violence to any person or property in order to obtain the thing intended to be stolen, or to prevent or overcome resistance to its being stolen, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
(2)  If the offender is armed with any dangerous or offensive weapon or instrument, or is in company with one or more other person or persons, or if, at or immediately before or immediately after the time of the assault, he wounds, beats, strikes or uses any other personal violence to any person, he shall be sentenced to death.
Finally, in relation to stealing, the Penal Code provides that,
A person who fraudulently and without claim of right takes anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the use of any person, other than the general or special owner thereof, any property, is said to steal that thing or property. (Section 268(1))
And,
If the thing stolen is any of the following things, that is to say, a horse, mare, gelding, ass, mule, camel, ostrich, bull, cow, ox, ram, ewe, wether, goat or pig, or the young thereof the offender is liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding fourteen years. (Section 278)
Are cattle rustlers terrorists or thieves? By most account in the news, the troubles in the North Rift are in the form of stock theft. Armed bands, probably of Pokot men, have been violently robbing the members of other communities residing in the North Rift of their cattle. The robberies have been extremely violent, during which firearms have been used and many people have been seriously or fatally injured. In my estimation, what is happening in parts of Baringo county is not terrorism but robbery.

What is happening in Baringo county meets some of the criteria set out in section 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2012, but not all of them. However, it meets all the criteria for theft, robbery and stock theft set out in sections 268, 278 ad 295 of the Penal Code, for which the penalties are clearly set out: death. Moreover, one of the formations of the National Police Service, known as the Anti Stock Theft Unit, based in Gilgil, has the mandate to conduct anti-stock theft operations and stock–theft investigations.

What Mr Kipkorir is attempting to do is to demonise an entire community for the sins of some of its sons; the Pokot are not terrorists. Some Pokot men are armed robbers who have gotten away with their robberies because the National Police Service and the mandarins that command them in Nairobi have allowed armed banditry to flourish without being checked.

This is a year fraught with perils because of the political grandstanding that an election year entails. Mr Kipkorir's sympathies are well known and his political utterances have elicited mirth in some quarters. He has come out strongly in favour of the ruling alliance, now renamed the Jubilee Party and has declared his political fealty to the Deputy President, a man who is not a Pokot man. Mr Kipkorir's utterances, in another light, would be considered hate speech, and they would invite the scrutiny of the Ole Kaparo-led National Cohesion and Integration Commission.

However, I have a different take. Mr Kipkorir has fallen victim to the hubris that inevitably engulfs those who are close to and associated with political power. This hubris, overweening in its nature, tends to blind them to reason or logic and encourages ever grander declarations that reiterate their political loyalties. If Mr Kipkorir truly believes that all the Pokot are indeed terrorists, then there is little that reasoned debate will do to persuade him as to the inherent inhumanness of his statements. But if he is doing it in order to not only demonstrate his political leanings but also to generate some bit of negative press for the Pokot, then his demands can be dismissed with the prejudice they deserve.

In his utterances against the Pokot, Mr Kipkorir also reveals one other pernicious aspect of the situation in Kenya's remote areas: the remit of the National Police Service is limited and inadequate. Since its formation, the Anti Stock Theft unit was feared for its anti-stock theft operations. Whenever it was deployed, cattle rustlers always lost. Yet it remains a mystery why a unit of the National Police that was established specifically to combat the banditry that members of the Pokot engage in has not been deployed to that banditry-prone place. What good is having the ASTU sitting pretty in Gilgil when lives are being lost the tit-for-tat cattle-rustling-and-murder taking place in Baringo, Wes Pokot, Turkana and Baringo?

Mr Kipkorir refuses to address this question. Perhaps his political fidelity prevents him frm asking the logical question: why is the Deputy President, whom he declares to be a powerful man, incapable of prevailing in the ruling alliance to ensure that the Inspector-General of Police, who also hails from Mr Kipkorir's preferred community, deploys the ASTU to conduct operations to identify and bring to justice the men who have caused so much death and destruction? Could it be that despite Mr Kipkorir's hagiography of these men, more so the Deputy President, they do not really care that citizens living in the North Rift are being murdered in the name of heads of cattle?

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