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How child warriors get initiated into banditry

Boys as young as 12 are being recruited as fighters in the volatile areas of northern Kenya prone to banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic conflicts. The turning of young boys into armed killers has alarmed the county administrations.

The revelations came against the backdrop of claims that teaching has been paralysed in 25 primary schools due to insecurity.

According to the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), 37,000 school children have been affected.

A Kenya Police reservist, Mr Symon Kiburet, said he and colleagues on security patrols had been ambushed several times by bandits as young as 14, who appeared well-trained and conversant with firearms.

“Ready markets are contributing to rampant cattle rustling because whenever they strike they go and sell the animals immediately so as not to be arrested,” he said.

Baringo County Commissioner Peter Okwanyo confirmed that youngsters between ages 12 and 17 were in possession of illegal firearms and have been carrying out violent raids in the region, mostly in Tiaty Sub-County.

SENSELESS KILLINGS

“Adult raiders are more tactical but juveniles shoot anyhow (sic) because most of them want to satisfy their curiosity, thus leading to senseless killings,” said Mr Okwanyo.

The Daily Nation team that visited some of the bandit-prone areas on Saturday saw boys as young as eight walking around with rifles resting on their shoulders.

“Cases of bandits killing people senselessly without taking anything are rampant in this county because the ones doing such are young children,” said Mr Okwanyo.

Many of the boys drop out of school in Standard Five, after which they marry. Because there is no other source of income to pay more than 200 cows for the dowry, they resort to raiding neighbouring communities, he said.

“We have already devised a strategy of mitigating against such retrogressive cultures through empowering youths by recruiting them to the National Youth Service so that they can acquire skills and discard such crimes,” said Mr Okwanyo.

Herders in parts of Baringo County said the security personnel stationed in the area could not contain the large number of raiders who also have sophisticated weapons.

The full version of the story was first published on the Daily nation