Frontier citizenship and state fragility in Kenya

  • Ododa Opiyo Kenya Army


Insecurity is a major problem amongst the nomadic communities in North western Kenya.  The communities include the Pokots, Turkana, Marakwet, Toposa and Karamoja.  Using the Pokot Community as a case study of nomadic life style, this paper examines the environmental constraints, cattle rustling and small arms as triggers of Pokot community movements into their frontiers; -zones of contact of states or communities.  In search of water and pasture, the Pokot traverse their frontiers and interact socially, economically and environmentally with their neighbours.  The movements expose their cattle and property to banditry and cattle rustling.  The Pokots thus acquire small arms to protect their livestock and property even though the acquisition of and stocking of arms is the responsibility of the government. So the acquirement of small arms by the Pokot creates a fragile insecurity situation characterised by cattle rustling and banditry.  As Kenyan citizens, the Pokots have a social contract with the state to provide security but this is not the case because of the transitional nature, as nomads.  Insecurity to the nomadic communities manifests in terms of environmental, natural resource based and identity based conflicts. It is concluded that addressing insecurity in this region has to lessen banditry, cattle rustling, social underdevelopment and negative ethnicity.  The steps towards solving state fragility and insecurity ought to take cognizance of the interactions between frontier citizens, environmental constraints, traditions, politics and acquisition of small arms.

 Key words: security, frontier, cattle rustling, democracy

Author Biography

Ododa Opiyo, Kenya Army

Lieutenant Colonel J. Ododa Opiyo, Ph D (International Studies- University of Nairobi), specialty: security studies, international relations of African states, international conflict analysis, Horn of Africa conflict system, social science research methods and regional integration.  Currently lectures at Kenya Defence Staff College Karen.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1998-1279