Migori, Kenya: For generations, Kuria region of Migori County has been known as the hotbed of cattle rustling.
Unlike their neighbours in Migori and Nyatike regions, where cattle have always been stolen ‘peacefully’ at night, in Kuria, rustling is a violent affair – with armed rustlers attacking homes with guns, sometimes even killing people before driving the cattle away.
The situation has been made worse by the porous expansive border between Kenya and Tanzania.
This has forced the Kuria people to redesign their homes. The houses are built in a circle, with an enclosed centre that is used as a cattle kraal at night.
“Before, we would wake up in the morning and find all the cattle gone. It was then that we decided to try this new way to ensure that at least someone is awoken when rustlers come,” Thomas Rioba, a resident from Kegonga, says.
For the rustlers to reach the cows, they must go through one of the houses, which is a bit discouraging.
However, according to Kuria East Officer Commanding Police Station Gladys Ogonda, cattle rustling in the region has gone down considerably due to police changing their manner of dealing with rustlers.
“We decided to stop forcing the rustlers to compensate the cattle owners and take them to court instead. This made the rustlers stop their thieving ways,” she said.
For most Nyakach residents, continuous rustling led them to reduce the number of livestock they own so they could accommodate the fewer animals in their houses.
But this is not safe as rustlers are said to be visiting their ‘clients’ in groups and violently robbing them. Victims of the rustlers’ wrath have either sold their livestock or taken them to relatives in safer areas.
Former Nyakach Member of Parliament Polyns Ochieng Daima last week had five of his cattle stolen from his home in the same village.
Quick response by residents scared the thieves into abandoning the cattle on the river bank before escaping.
County Administration Police Commandant Gradius Atinda has established two AP stations in the area to beef up the fight against cattle rustling.
“We don’t want to be called when rustlers attack. We want to prevent the attacks from happening altogether,” said Atinda.