How guns, hate and politics fuel conflict in northern Kenya

Tuesday November 12 2019

Men and boys brandish AK-47s while chanting war songs in Kibish town, Turkana. CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION


For days, we travelled into the heartland of cattle rustlers, where men have fought each other for generations using rudimentary weapons. But now they have guns. Plenty of them. This land is chaotic and fractured, and the gun-control regime is alien.

Here, politics, clandestine interests, livestock business, both legal and illegal, and a mixture of traditional feuds run concurrently, triggering a deadly mix of violence in a land where the gun is the arbiter.

We found that cattle rustlers, who run the multimillion-shilling cattle theft empire, are buying bullets for Russian-made AK-47 guns and the German Heckler & Koch G3s for as little as Sh100 each. Guns are also being traded for as much as Sh80,000 or exchanged for two to five cows, sometimes in the full glare of police. Outnumbered by armed civilians, police here opt to look the other way.

ANation investigation found the bullets and guns being sold in open market centres and manyattas, with the traders unperturbed about security agencies. The trade is so common that in one of the centres known as Kokuro, we were offered bullets just a few steps from a police station.

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