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Don’t turn Pokots into bandits

You will never read or hear in a Kenyan news report that police in Nairobi killed three suspected Kikuyu thugs. Or that, two suspected Luhyia bandits died instantly after they broke into a shop in Kangemi and drank poison they mistook for chang’aa. What would it matter if the suspected thugs were Kikuyu, Ogiek or de-ethnicized millenials? And how would police tell the ethnicity of the suspects, anyway?

Have you ever heard a news report that officers from the Kenya Ethics and AntiCorruption Commission arrested four Kamba policemen suspected of taking bribes on Kisii-Kilgoris road?

Or that suspected Luo robbers broke into a bank in Nyeri and made away with an unknown amount of money? Yet quite often, you hear or read about “Pokot bandits” or “Turkana cattle rustlers”. What is the point of this ethnic profiling?

On 13 January 2018, the Star carried a story titled, “Nanok takes peace, security talks to Uganda after Turkana attacks” by Heboun Etyang. A paragraph in that story read as follows:
“On November 4 last year, nine people including three police officers and the Turkana East education director were killed at Lomelo near Kapedo by suspected Pokot bandits. The bandits ambushed their AP vehicle while they were on patrol.”

Sounds Ok, doesn’t it?

The final paragraph read: “On December 19, 19 people died in an accident at Loruk on Marigat-Kapedo road. It is believed the accident resulted from an attack by Pokot bandits.”

What does it matter whether the suspected bandits were Pokot or whatever?

Days later on 18 January 2018, the Star had yet another story titled, “5,000 children fearful of bandits, stay away from Baringo schools”, this time written by Joseph Kangogo.

“The pupils were among more than 800 Ilchamus residents who were displaced after Pokot bandits launched a retaliatory attack on Mukutani Full Gospel Church on March 14 last year”, Kangogo reported.

On January 21, Kangogo filed another report for the Star headlined, “Pokot woman, two children killed in Kapedo by suspected Turkana bandits.”

While the journalist may have been sure that the woman and her two children in this very sad incident were Pokot, how did he conclude that the perpetrators were Turkana bandits? It is not indicated that they were ever arrested and their ethnicity determined yes Kangogo said: “Last week on Sunday, a Turkana man was shot dead by suspected Pokot bandits while fetching firewood in Kapedo.”

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