The wave of violence that has hit Kitui County in recent weeks is terrifying.
Reports say the violence is perpetrated by suspected bandits rummaging the county in search of pasture and water for their livestock.
But this is not a resource conflict; it is a major security threat. It is a matter of life and death.
At least five people have been killed and several families hounded out of their homes and forced to seek shelter in churches and other public institutions, creating a humanitarian crisis.
Attackers invading villages, killing and maiming people are not merely herders seeking water and pasture.
Those are criminals who should be dealt with ruthlessly. They must be hounded and made to pay for their sins.
Unless checked, the violence is bound to get out of hand. Some political leaders have issued threats and signalled intention for combat, which can only aggravate the matter and create a crisis.
On Monday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i visited the county and read the riot act to the provincial administration and security teams to rein in the perpetrators of the mayhem and restore normalcy.
But hard-brow gangs are never deterred by mere threats; they only respond to real action.
The only language they understand is brute force. So the imperative is to exterminate them and stop them from executing their nefarious designs.
What is even more frightening is the fact that the raids have gone on intermittently and for quite a while, peaking during such periods of deepening drought and food scarcity.
Kitui and neighbouring counties such as Tana River and other northern counties are hardship areas characterised by long spells of drought, poor infrastructure and general insecurity.
Tana River suffers perennial insecurity that has defied governmental intervention for years.
Matters are made worse by the fact that the counties are proximate to the trouble-prone Somalia, a lawless state that has bred terrorists who are quick to exploit security lapses to visit harm on hapless civilians.
Some of the raiders could be escaping across the border after striking their neighbours here.
Tackling the bandit menace requires a concerted strategy that involves sealing the borders and preventing external aggressors from getting into our territory or local ones escaping to those jurisdictions.
Besides deploying security teams to crush the aggressors, the government must rein in reckless politicians stoking the embers of violence by calling their communities to war.
Irrespective of who the authors of the violence are, politicians must sue for peace and seek long-term resolution to such a conflict.
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