Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Cattle raids and murders in Kenya

Cattle raids and murders have become common between the Turkana, Pokot and Samburu tribes in Kenya.

As with all other pastoralist tribes in Kenya including the Pokot and Samburu tribes, livestock, especially cattle, are at the core of life and culture. 

Cattle raids and murders between the Turkana, Pokot and Samburu tribes in Kenya.
Cattle raids and murder.

The Turkana people place such a high value on cattle that they often raid other tribes to acquire more animals. This may be seen as theft, but to the Turkana and other pastoralist tribes, it is a traditional custom. 

However, on September 24, 2022 eleven people were killed in Turkana County including eight National Police Service officers, two civilians and a local chief during a the Pokot ethnic group cattle raid. t follows an incident last month in which at least seven people were burnt to death in the same county during a raid by suspected Pokot militiamen. 

The pastoralist communities have used raiding and violence to restock herds, seize political power, or gain access to water. The area has been one of the hardest hit in one of the harshest droughts East Africa has seen in four decades. 

Cattle raids and murders are common between Turkanas and their neighboring tribes, especially between the Samburu, Pokot and Marakwet of Southern Kenya. They live in an ecological environment where the agricultural potential is extremely limited. They also live in a political environment that is very unstable where raiding and violence may erupt at any time. 

Disputes between communities may be aimed at forcefully evicting political opponents and their supporters from a common area in the run-up to a competitive political period, thus denying them a chance to cast their ballots. 

One of the world's hottest places, Samburu County has long been the battleground for rival communities marginalized herdsmen from the Turkana and Samburu communities, who steal each other's livestock and fight for scarce resources. Baragoi is a market town in Kenya, lying north of Maralal and east of the Suguta Valley located in Samburu County. 

Kenya's police called the Baragoi massacre in Samburu County a "criminal and cowardly ambush" on "innocent members of the public and police". Baragoi has been dubbed the Valley of Death because of the inhospitable terrain and bandit country. The Baragoi massacre or Samburu County Killings occurred in November 2012 on Mashujaa or Heroes Day after a Turkana raiders took over 500 heads of livestock including cattle and camels from one Samburu family.

Anti-Stock Theft Unit in Kenya
Anti-Stock Theft Unit in Kenya

After being outgunned the day before, the Baragoi police were reinforced by the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, a specialized unit formed to track and recover stolen livestock. The police team then proceeded to Lomerok village, but they were again overpowered by the Turkana raiders and forced to withdraw. 

However, 5 days later about 600 armed Samburu men between the ages of 15 and 30 were set for retaliation against the Turkana taking matters into their own hands since the police were out gunned.

On November 10, 2012, 132 police officers and hundreds of Samburu men were assembled for the operation on Lomerok village to take back the livestock however, they were ambushed by Turkana and about 105 people were killed, among these 42 police officers.

Samburu and Turkana authorities have been holding public meetings to try and stop the violence but to no avail as cattle rustling is a traditional show of strength and acquisition of wealth for centuries in African pastoral tribes.

Did you know?

Kenyan Nilotes are comprised of three distinct groups: the River Lake Nilotes; the Luo, who live along Lake Victoria and practice fishing; and the plain Nilotes, who include the Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana people. 

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