Every time bandit raids occur in Baringo and the larger pastoralists regions of Kerio Valley, Samburu, Laikipia and Turkana, one name keeps popping up – Asman Abang’otum Kamama.
And despite hue and cry that always accompany the raids for security apparatus to investigate the powerful MP, whose constituents are accused of the raids in which hundreds of people have been killed, many more maimed and thousands displaced, nothing ever happens.
Indeed, majority of cattle rustling victims have been driven into to desperation and helplessness. That is why many of them heaved a sigh of relief on December 20, 2013, when President Uhuru Kenyatta bought Kamama 20 goats at Kimalel goat auction as a gesture to end cattle rustling being perpetrated by individuals he represents in Parliament.
“I have bought 20 goats for Kamama, halafu hiyo maneno ingine nisisikie tena (let me not hear of the other matter again),” The president said, referring to cattle rustling that has pitted the Pokot community against its Tugen neighbours.
Kamama represents a constituency inhabited by Pokots, who have historically engaged in attacks and counter-attacks in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia counties.
The attacks have led to the Tugen, Ilchamus and Pokot, all neighbours inhabiting Baringo County, to live in mutual hatred, a silent commitment to destroy one another and zeal to revenge. All sides continue arming themselves discreetly.
The Pokot victims blame Kamama who rose from a teacher in 1980s at Chemolingot High School to a District Officer (DO1) from 1992 before switching to politics in 2002.
They saw him better placed to end banditry. But to the contrary, he has been viewed as fulcrum that cattle rustling rotates on.
What is astonishing in all these brutal attacks is that Kamama has always chosen a deafening silence and inaction, raising questions on his commitment to end the menace. Victims point to systematically executed attacks, which escalate in the run-up to elections. But Kamama, when confronted with such claims, vehemently denies a role in the attacks and displacements.
“I have been in the forefront fighting this menace and those saying otherwise are propagating lies and propaganda,” he told The Standard on Sunday.
The war allegedly waged by Kamama’s community, according to victims, is no longer about cattle rustling, but a territorial expansion in pursuit of grazing land as it is alleged that there is heavy presence of armed Pokot militiamen, who roam freely and shoot at any “alien” on land that has been occupied by the Tugen for decades.
From conversations with people who know Kamama but would not want to go on record, he is viewed as a calculative politician, always joining parties that end up being in government. In 2002, he went to Parliament on a Ford People ticket, an affiliate of the National Rainbow Coalition that ruled until 2007.
In a fascinating political turnaround, he opted for PNU in 2007 against the euphoria created by ODM, which swept the North Rift vote.
Kamama, who served a short stint as Public Service Minister in 2008 and as Higher Education Assistant Minister the same year, has been accused by leaders and residents alike of using his current position as chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and Administration to water down government efforts to always disarm cattle rustlers, especially from his community.
Kamama has several times locked horns with some Baringo legislators over his commitment and honesty to weed out cattle rustling.