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    Pastoralist Militia Violence in Kenya: A 24-Month Forecast

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    Pastoralist militia groups are particularly active in the North Rift region of Kenya (source). This region has been extremely susceptible to droughts in recent years increasing competition over grazing land and water resources (source). Pastoralism is one of the main economic activities for people in the region, accounting for 90% of youth employment (source). Members of pastoralist militias commit various acts of violence. For example, banditry, cattle theft, and targeted attacks against landowners are common methods (source). Existing tensions around territories, political grievances and arms smuggling in the country has exacerbated the conflict. Furthermore, the government’s lack of public investment in education and infrastructure has left many herders struggling to support their families. 

    Key Judgement 1: It is likely that pastoralist militia violence will increase in the next 24 months as competition for resources continues to be prevalent.

    Key Judgement 2: It is unlikely that the government’s action to remove illegal weapons will be an effective form of reducing activity within pastoralist militia groups in the next 24 months.

    Key Judgement 3: It is probable that pastoralist militia violence will become more strategic and organised over the next 24 months as they move to further target security forces.

    KJ-1: It is likely that pastoralist militia violence will increase in the next 24 months as competition for resources continues to be prevalent.

    • Kenya lost approximately 2.5 million heads of livestock last year as a result of the drought (source). 
    • Scientists predict that East Africa will face more frequent droughts in the coming years (source). Furthermore, Kenya has faced 5 consecutive poor rainy seasons (source), 
    • Attacks by pastoralist militia groups are most commonly a result of competition for water and pastures. This competition consequently feeds into a cycle of reciprocal violence by different groups (source). 
    • Sources suggest that most violence is between communities over grazing land and livestock. Evidently, severe droughts exacerbate the situation (source). 
    • A human intelligence source stated that resource-related competition is a major exacerbating factor in pastoralist conflict.

    KJ-2: It is unlikely that the government’s action to remove illegal weapons will be an effective form of reducing activity within pastoralist militia groups in the next 24 months.

    • Pastoralist militia groups are gaining access to more weapons from neighbouring countries (source). 
    • In February 2023, security forces implemented a three-day amnesty period for members of militias to hand in illegal weapons. However, the community handed over only three guns (source). 
    • According to Security Manager, Sadik A. Maalim, communities believe that if they give up their weapons, they will be more vulnerable to external attacks. He stated that they may hand a few weapons over to reduce pressure from government forces. However, he emphasised that they would not surrender all weapons. 
    • Additionally, Kenyan Security Analyst George Musamali has stated that many communities in Kenya cannot give up their weapons easily. This is a result of decades of insecurity in which they have been responsible for their own safety (source).

    KJ-3: It is probable that pastoralist militia violence will become more strategic and organised over the next 24 months as they move to further target security forces.

    • There has been a rise in pastoralist militia attacks against security forces, including against local police (source). 
    • The government have set up a new anti-banditry force that aims to drive out militias from hideouts (source). However, the forces have had to engage in gun battles with militia groups fighting against the security personnel. 
    • Longstanding tensions between herders and landowners have led to more organised groups of pastoralist militias who are perpetrating more strategic and violent attacks (source).  
    • Grievances over the government’s use of land and political disputes partly motivated the violence (source).

    Analytical Summary

    We have high confidence in KJ-1 and KJ-2. These judgements are based on reports from think tanks, scientific forecasts and human intelligence sources in the field of Kenyan security. For KJ-2, we are assuming that the government will not effectively introduce new economic incentives for communities to give up their weapons. Were this assumption proven to be incorrect, we would likely see government publications advertising such incentives and an increase in the number of arms being surrendered. Insights into government security strategies would provide further insight.

    Intelligence cut-off date: 02.05.2023

    Eimear Duggan
    Eimear Duggan
    Eimear is an intelligence analyst currently pursuing the International Masters programme in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies (IMSISS). Her main areas of interest are Balkan security, European affairs, and extremism.

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