Kenya: Reformed Bandits Finding Alternative Livelihoods

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Samburu — Some youths in northern Kenya are abandoning banditry for alternative ways of earning a living. More than 500 men from the Samburu indigenous group, traditionally known as morans, are enrolled in vocational training, such as carpentry, keeping them from what authorities say is the smuggling of guns from neighboring Ethiopia for cattle rustling.

Twenty-eight-year-old Simon Lepramarai recalled the day in 2019 when he and a friend were nearly shot after stealing cattle from a rival community in Samburu.

“We went for a raid; we went to steal,” he aid. “Before we got to our destination, they ambushed us, they shot at us, we ran; each one went their way. We had to save our lives,” Simon said. “I was on my own and there was no hospital around. I decided that I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Simon, now a motorcycle repairman in his village, said he enrolled in vocational training for a decent livelihood.

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He’s among more than 500 youths in northern Kenya taking part in what is known as “ujuzi manyatani,” meaning skills in the community in Swahili.

Authorities say the program is helping to diversify livelihoods among young morans, including women.

“This is a program that is being fashioned to suit pastoral communities’ lifestyle because the tools and trainers are actually mobile; they move from one village to another,” Program Director Boru Ture said. “Through, this program a number of youths and women who were engaged in unproductive activities such as banditry, highway robbery, are turning their skills into business.”