West Pokot District
By Okech Kendo
The West Pokot district is more or less surrounded by the Turkana district and Uganda. Harsh conditions raise a constant fight for cattle and land. Tension is rising as it has many times before in the North, with pastoral communities engrossed in conflicts over resources.
West Pokot District is vast, arid and in most parts hostile. About 400,000 people in West Pokot District rely on nine per cent, or 1,000 square Kilometres of 9,100 square Kilometres to survive. This is population implosion.
During former President Moi’s 24-year era, there were about 20 operations, an average of one a year to disarm the Pokot. Colonialists also had their operations to tame this community.
Ethiopia was the source of thousands of guns after the Ogaden War. Somali traders then had a booming gun business. But the cost of guns fell after the fall of Idi Amin. In April 1979, Karamajong warriors looted Moroto Barracks and took guns that they sold to the Pokot.
The Turkana and the Karamajong, who compete for cattle, space and pasture with the Pokot, share a language and a culture. In Uganda they are Karamajong and in Kenya they are Turkana. They often unite against the Pokot.
Pokot’s neighbours are armed and hostile. The moment Pokot or Turkana are disarmed they would be vulnerable and bitter, if not more determine to survive.
But it is not just the neighbourhood. The Pokot’s situation illustrates the national disparities that should be bridged to render guns irrelevant.
The perceived "Pokot hostility", as illustrated by incessant cattle rustling, is an ecological tension that should be addressed in national development.
Nine sub-locations in West Pokot have no schools. The right punishment for the Pokot or Turkana should therefore be free and compulsory education, not annihilation the Michuki way.
West Pokot District, which is larger than Western Province, has only three MPs and three constituencies – Sigor, Kacheliba and Kapenguria. Western Province has 25 MPs. Division of national wealth is thus skewed.
Security is at the heart of the problem but it is one of many. The French in Chad created two Chads – one in the south and another in the north. One was developed, one was marginalised. The rest of Kenya defined by Nairobi is richer than the desolate North.
Billions of shillings wasted through corruption and political gerrymandering could change the face of Kenya. River Sabweni, which flows through Trans Nzoia to join River Nzoia to flood Budalangi, is wasted. River Murunyi from Cherangani Hills, flowing through West Pokot to Turkana, is also wasted. Irrigation could change West Pokot landscape and psyche.