Cattle Rustling: The age-old tradition of death


David Daballen, Head of Field Operations

Date Published

Cattle rustling is a long time cultural practice by the pastoral communities found in North East and North West of Kenya. Warriors usually go raid the neighboring communities and return with hundreds of cattle. This show of bravery would earn them praises from young women and the elders for defending their community. Fifty years after independence, it’s shocking this barbaric act is still with us, causing a lot of pain and displacing populations. However new age cattle raids are more sophisticated as advanced weapons are used to kill anyone who gets in the way.

I have witnessed many cattle raids in the past but the most recent one, just meters away from the STE research camp, shook me to the core. Hundreds were displaced, others were killed and families lost their livelihoods.

On October 23rd raiders from the Samburu tribe attacked the Turkanas and made away with a large number of cattle. The already volatile situation escalated when the Turkanas retaliated with two raids. The prolonged drought in the area didn’t help the situation as large number of cattle stolen from the Samburus crossed from Samburu County to Mugur-Nanyori area of Isiolo County where there was better pasture. Recovery missions became quite a task and with every inch covered-mayhem, destruction and death.

Attacks continued in early November.

Residents of Loruko village near the Ewaso Nyiro then became the next victims. Defenseless women and children whose men had gone to war started seeking refuge in campsites and resort lodges, even as gunshots intensified. Our camp now resembled a refugee camp. Every corner was dotted with women and children. We feared for our security too. Ultimately, we decided to transport them to various locations so they could find their way to alternative temporary abodes.

Several low-key security meetings have since been held by county bosses and a team from the Northern Rangelands Trust to try calm the situation and encourage all who had been displaced to go back to their homes. Many were of course reluctant. Security forces were deployed in the high-risk areas.

The situation is much calmer now. We hope it stays this way, but even in the stillness of the air we know anything can happen. We are glad that no elephant fell victim to this recent spate of insecurity. However, we cannot trivialize the loss of human lives. We all thrive, including the elephants, when there is peace.

Over 40 Loruko residents together with their property were sheltering at STE camp

Over 40 Loruko residents together with their property were sheltering at STE camp


Lempara one of our senior staff also leaving to take his family for safe place

Lembara one of our senior staff also leaving to take his family to a safe place