Understanding Security Concerns at the County Level: Experiences from Counties in the North Rift Region of Kenya


  • M.O. Ang’anyo
  • T.O. Juma


It is a historical fact and current reality that most counties in Kenya, particularly those in the North Rift Region (Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Trans Nzoia, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu and Elgeyo Marakwet), are haunted by actual or potential security concerns. This is partly on account of the fact that communities in this region continue to consciously or unconsciously rely on ethnicity to perpetuate their dominance and hegemony in an atmosphere characterized by scarce resources, fear, and prejudice. The proliferation of ethnic conflicts among some Kalenjin communities (Keiyo, Tugen, Pokot, Ilchamus and Endorois) is so widespread that there is hardly any county in the North Rift Region where the problem has not reared its ugly head. This paper sets out to explain security concerns at the county level by examining experiences from counties in the North Rift Region of Kenya. The discussion is guided by the theory of realism in understanding security concerns at the county level. A review of previous empirical research and ongoing field studies are used to examine four problem areas: cattle rustling, proliferation of small arms, competition over scarce resources and conflict between refugees (or internally displaced persons) and local communities. The Tugen-Pokot conflicts are related to the cultural perceptions of regarding each other as traditional enemies. This manifests itself in resource disputeslinked to livestock, pasture, water, land, territory and boundary. The conflicts have increasingly become violent dueto proliferation and use of small arms and light weapons. While the Tugen, Ilchamus and Endorois consider cattle rustling as the major cause of dispute, the Pokot consider political issues as the genesis of their hostile relationship. On the other hand, the Keiyo and the Tugen had a bitter history of conflict over livestock which they raided from each other from pre-colonial period. This was exacerbated by disputes over land. Seeking access to water and green pastures, the nomads generally follow their cattle across the region. They cross and re?cross county boundaries resulting in conflicts over water and pasture. Resource competition in a fragile economy has had grave consequences for the economic security of families and internally displaced persons. This research paper recommends formulation of a policy on security concerns at the county level that should be integrated in the national policy on peace building and conflict management (2012). The policy should ensure the county peace secretariat, anchored on the county policing authority, functions in liaison with the county security and intelligence committee (CSIC). This would accord with the spirit of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) that provides for cooperation between national and county governments.

Key words: Counties, Security, Insecurity, Peace, Peacebuilding, Conflict, and Conflict Management