By Justus Muraya Karanja
If a huge number of civilians numbering 200-300 can recruit, plan, identify and gather assault and survival logistics, organize themselves in attack formations and move without being picked by intelligence services or local communities; lay an effective ambush -effective in terms of the choice of the precise point and time of the attack on a huge stretch of a transnational highway they must not only have good commanders but enormous political capital.
That they can have the audacity to confront and fiercely challenge a multiagency force of government paramilitary units, they must not only also have balls but most importantly they must have powerful allies in government and out of government.
Any of this could mean very many things but a stable country at peace with itself.
One doesn’t need to be a security scientist to know that whatever this is, it is mutating into a hydra-headed peace and security monster that will come to bite hard.
This is no longer conclusively about cattle trade, drought or culture, or criminogenic highway banditry.
Otherwise, criminals wouldn’t be challenging the Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS), the symbol of our national security or provoking our security agencies into an open armed confrontation.
It would be unnecessary.
How else would one explain bandits trailing their firepower in the direction of public transport if not to sabotage the national economy?
Paralyzing the movement of people and goods is a humanitarian as well as a security concern. This must be stopped.
All these, look more like a powerful statement that is strong on political undertone than just lawlessness.
Admittedly, there are a plethora of issues involved with the state of affairs in northern Kenya.
They include poor access to education, poor governance of northern Kenya before and during devolution, competition for common but scarce natural resources, historical land issues, government policies; cultural retrogression, climate change, and proliferation and stockpiling of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
Although these are complex, highly potent and long-standing issues they only create an environment in which banditry is able to thrive in Kenya’s wild west.
Yet they are not the motivation currently driving the banditry activities in northern Kenya.
That 200-300 people can stage a successful attack on paramilitary security agencies, they must have military-level capabilities including commanders and political figureheads who could be harboring political ambitions.
Likewise, if bandits acquire a political motivation their identity shifts from being bandits to being a militia group or a homegrown terrorist organization.
Consequently, the level of threat posed to national security becomes existential to the survival of the state.
In that case, the government response is required to be a hard-served lesson; swift, decisive and devastating.
The government must bear in mind a worrying scenario where these groups became a proxy for a transnational terrorist organization or become an agent of foreign force for destabilizing the country.
That is why the government needs to consider the requests by Noth Rift leaders to deploy a Kenya Defence Forces-led multi-agency force to sort out Northern Kenya and bring it back to the mainstream through the rule of law.
Africa Center for Engendered Security