Kenya will deploy troops in the country’s drought-stricken north on Wednesday, the government announced, accusing bandits and cattle rustlers of killing scores of people.
More than 100 civilians and 16 police officers have lost their lives at the hands of “marauding bandits and livestock rustling terrorists” in the Northern Rift Valley region over the past six months, the interior ministry said in a statement late Monday.
The theft of livestock or quarrels over grazing and water sources are common between cattle herding communities in northern Kenya.
“The murderous gangs have in recent days escalated their terror on innocent Kenyans and law enforcement agencies and in the process burnt down schools, police vehicles and other social amenities,” the ministry said.
Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes, it added, declaring a national emergency and ordering citizens to surrender any illegal firearms within the next three days.
“On the 15th (of) February, 2023, the Kenya Defence Forces shall be deployed in support of the National Police Service in response to the security emergency… caused by rampant incidents of banditry,” the government said in a gazetted notice published on Monday.
The deployment is subject to approval by parliament.
At least 11 people, including eight police and a local chief, were killed by cattle rustlers in September in northern Turkana county.
In November 2012, more than 40 policemen were killed in an ambush as they pursued cattle thieves in Baragoi, a remote district in Kenya’s arid north.
And in August 2019, at least 12 people, including three children, were killed in two attacks in northern Kenya by cattle rustlers.
Kenya, the most dynamic economy in East Africa, is in the grip of the worst drought in four decades after five failed rainy seasons wiped out livestock and crops.