Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Nature and Causes of Cattle Rustling among Some Pastoral Communities in Kenya

Academic journal article Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences

Nature and Causes of Cattle Rustling among Some Pastoral Communities in Kenya

Article excerpt


This paper is based on research conducted in two Districts in Kenya namely; Baringo East and Marakwet East in the Kerio Valley region. The objectives were; to investigate the causes and socio-economic effects of cattle rustling on the Pokot and Marakwet communities. The research utilised both primary and secondary data collection methods. The sample size was calculated at two hundred and twenty respondents representing both communities. The results show cattle rustling has numerous causes that include; the availability of guns, commercialization of cattle raids, political incitement, poverty, traditional values, illiteracy and women. Some socio-economic impacts of cattle rustling included; migration, change of livelihoods styles, eroded cultural values and adoption of education and farming. The paper recommends that government and all stakeholders should develop Kerio Valley region through building schools, construction roads and market to improve the literacy levels and provide alternative livelihoods to pastoralism.

Keywords: conflicts, raiding, underdevelopment, rural communities, pastoralism


Conflicts in the North rift region of Kenya are thought to be part and parcel of a pastoral culture and livelihood of resident communities. More so conflicts between Marakwet and Pokot communities are deemed to be resource based resulting from competition over pasture and water. A cattle rustling is the act of forceful raiding of livestock from one community by another using guns and leaving behind destruction of property and loss of lives. This concept should be understood alongside cattle raids which involve stealing livestock from one community by another without destroying property or killing people. Throughout the paper cattle rustling is used interchangeably with conflicts among the Pokot and Marakwet.

Traditionally both communities practiced cattle raids with neighbouring communities, using crude weapons such as; sticks, spears, bows, arrows and clubs. These raids are practiced as means of reciprocity, for poor families to acquire livestock and restock particularly after droughts or epidemics. However, in 1990s this cultural practice transformed itself and is now referred to as 'cattle rustling', with the main weapons used being guns. Prior to 1990 cattle raids are meant to steal livestock, by scaring away their owners, but cattle rustling involves destruction of property and murder. Cattle rustling have become a commercial entity along the boundaries of pastoral communities and stolen livestock are never recovered. The actors in cattle rustling involve politically linked and power wielding personalities sometimes not pastoralist. The cattle rustling menace has left the Marakwet and Pokot to bear the brunt of destruction and murder. It is interesting therefore to enquire what went wrong to a culture of reciprocity that turned violent. Thus this study aims at establishing the nature and causes of cattle rustling among Marakwet and Pokot communities in northern Kenya.

Proliferation of illegal weapons among Pokot and Marakwet had increased the severity of cattle rustling. Before 1990s, Marakwet relied primarily on their traditional weapons (clubs, bows, poisoned arrows and swords) whereas Pokot used sticks, spears, bows and arrows (Kipkorir and Welbourn, 1973). The causes of conflicts are blamed on Pokot aggressors who invaded Marakwet pasture/grazing lands along Kerio River. As Pokot raids intensified, Marakwet people were forced to purchase firearms to counter attack their neighbouring Pokot. Interesting to note is the fact that the gun suppliers to Marakwet are the very Pokot, they intended to contain. It is estimated that there are 1,000 illicit arms in the hands of Marakwet warriors and about 3000 in the hands of Pokot. The first gun is reported among West Pokot in 1976, East Pokot in 1979 and Marakwet in 1993 (KHRC, 2001).


This study was carried out in two districts in Kenya namely; Baringo East and Marakwet East occupied by Pokot and Marakwet respectively. …

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