Stunning geography of lush farmlands stretching for miles, forested hills and river network lends the landscape of Kilgoris in Trans Mara West Sub-County in Narok County an overwhelming splendour of vast proportions. Truly, a vista to behold.
These fertile valleys receive sufficient rainfall annually, producing wheat, maize and potatoes in plenty.
To an outsider, this is a place of abundance and quietness. Except this is just part of the story and, somewhat, a facade.
Underneath this tranquillity is unease, mistrust and strenuous relations between local communities. At any given time, Kilgoris is a tinderbox of suppressed turmoil.
Cattle rustling, banditry and bloody border disputes between Maasai and Kipsigis communities characterise the highly potent politics of the area, a toxic mix made worse by proliferation of illegal firearms.
Njipship, Shartuka, Angata-Barrikoi lead in the notoriety of cattle rustling, and shootings here are as routine as they are frequent.
Bandits inhabit the nearby Nyakweri forest in the pretext of charcoal burning, and are said to be the main perpetrators of illegal logging.
The area administration has been ill at ease for years, vainly trying to control permeation of guns, reportedly smuggled from Tanzania through the porous border points of Loita and Olpusimoru.
With a population of nearly 200,000 people, Kilgoris has one of the highest densities of firearms in the hands of citizens. According to authorities, one in 10 residents is in possession of an illegal gun.
On Friday last week, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and Rift Valley Regional Co-ordinator Mongo Chimwaga spent the whole day meeting regional security heads from Narok and the surrounding counties of Kisii, Nyamira, Kisumu and Nakuru to discuss the status of illegal firearms, land disputes and stock theft in the region.
Already, the government has recovered more than 100 guns and 300 rounds of ammunition from locals in an ongoing voluntary disarmament exercise.
The cache of guns was displayed last week at Njipship shopping centre, numbers which stunned CS Matiang’i and IG Boinnet. Some of the firearms are more powerful than what the police use.
The voluntary disarmament comes to a close on September 2, upon which security officers will descend on Kilgoris to forcibly take the remaining arms.
Meanwhile, some locals have been fleeing their homes to the surrounding forest in defiance of the disarmament, and according to Dr Matiang’i, the government is tracking these “dangerous individuals” through intelligence shared by residents.
“We are coming after you. The government will not allow people to illegally own firearms anymore. We want to ensure that all illegally possessed guns are returned to the government by the end of the year,” Mr Matiang’i said.
Lack of goodwill and politics have, however, frustrated efforts to recover illegal arms in the past, with politicians fiercely defending their communities.
“The government may collect guns in the hands of residents, but the bandits remain in our midst. This leaves our people defenceless,” one local leader lamented.
Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella and Narok Governor Samuel Tunai asked the government to exercise restraint when it moves in to collect unrecovered guns.
Besides, Kilgoris is the prime passageway for contraband goods and bhang from Tanzania.
“Tanzania cannot be growing bhang for the Kenya market. Our neighbours must take responsibility,” Dr Matiang’i warned, adding that Kenya is going to deal with the matter both diplomatically and with force where necessary.
DEPLORABLE ROAD NETWORK
A deplorable road network further inhibits response by security agencies, with the dusty Olmelil-Njipship-Pimbiniet and the Kilena-Tororet-Mopel-Pimbiniet roads virtually unnavigable.
The government is, however, upgrading roads in the area for ease of access during emergencies.
According to the CS, new administrative units will be established and fully operationalised to enhance gathering of intelligence.
Police posts in hotpot areas of Emarti and Shartuka will be upgraded to police stations to help combat security challenges.