Monday, January 31, 2011

Cattle rustling increases with Kenyan drought

Cases of cattle rustling has increased in northern Kenya. With recent drought causing the deaths and thinning of many herds, some farmers take to stealing to replenish their stock. In response, the Kenyan government has begun an electronic tagging program to better track cattle.

From Reuters Alert Net, writer Abjata Khalif describes the need for more security for Kenyan cattle farmers.

Livestock herding is the main livelihood and source of income in northern Kenya, and the hike in cattle thefts threatens to ignite cross-community reprisals and raids that could set the stage for a surge in ethnic fighting in the region. Settled Kenyan communities that live in regions bordering the pastoral areas of northeastern and eastern Kenya have complained that cattle rustling incidents are surging during drought periods.

Besides hitting settled communities, armed rustlers waylay and attack pastoralist communities moving with large herds of livestock across the border into Somalia and Ethiopia. Herders who stay behind in their own remote, drought-hit villages with small numbers of animals also have fallen prey to attacks.

According Adan Garad, executive director of the Wagalla Centre for Peace and Human Rights, a Wajir-based community organization focused on pastoralist rights issues, livestock theft has been reported in all the pastoral districts of Wajir, Moyale, Marsabit and Sabarwawa.

“Cases of cattle rustling are increasing in these areas and we have received numerous cases from affected pastoralist communities. In the past, the communities used to practice cattle rustling as it was permitted by their culture. But now people are using cattle rustling as mean of restocking back to what they lost to prolonged droughts,” Garad said.

“In the past, communities in northern Kenya witnessed sporadic cases of insecurity but the prolonged drought and changing weather pattern is causing a spiral and increased cases of armed assaults that will see many lives lost and thousands of livestock lost,” he warned.

So far, 36 cases of cattle rustling have been reported in areas of the Northern and Eastern provinces of Kenya that are inhabited by pastoralists, he said. All the cases involved arms raids.

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