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Terror of Kisumu gangs, Nyeri killers

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Terror of Kisumu gangs, Nyeri killers by Kenyans247(1): Fri 25, December, 2020 10:42am
What you need to know:
Sand smugglers and excavators, with money in their pockets, are bulking up operations and could soon be the new well-armed rebel armies, controlling land for harvesting as galloping urbanisation and its attendant construction boom drives their profits.
And rural lands will be further trashed in crises brought on more by illegal sand, leaving more people desperate, with killings and kidnappings for livelihoods (see Nigeria) increasing.
They might not have looked like it, but there were two stories tucked away inside the Daily Nation in the Counties section on Monday and Tuesday that were, errh, quite pregnant.

The first, “Raila, Oburu, Nyong’o not spared by ruthless sand harvesters of Kisumu”, reported how sand harvesters in Kisumu County are leaving a trail of destruction as they invade lands and lake shoreline to illegally mine the material.

They have no fear, excavating sand around graves; on the lands of Kisumu’s power men and women; and anywhere they can find. The sand harvesters are now armed, and are creating “sand refugees”. Said the story, “Some villagers have had to relocate to other places after the earth was dug up around their homes, leaving their compounds sunken.”

The other story, on Tuesday, was headlined “Mystery of missing people found dead in Nyeri, Tuesday, December 22, 2020”. Over the past six months, it said, 10 people, including children, who been reported missing, were found dead. Their bodies have been cast in rivers, forests, and the little girls had been raped then brutally murdered.


“They disappear, then they are found dead. This is a trend now common with mysterious killings in Nyeri County”, the story declared. The killings haven’t been solved.

Economic crises
These two stories are, actually, closely linked. They are the product of environmental, social and economic crises in the African countryside (exactly the same thing is happening in the majority of African countries), and they are partly the fallout from globalisation and domestic prosperity.

The seeds of the crisis are something many people will recognise. When we were kids ages ago, and visited our grandparents, there were a lot of grass thatched houses. People in the villages built or refurbished their huts every year or so, and they got the grass, the timber, and sand from within half a kilometre of their homes.

The grandies are long gone, and we now live in the same area. The only thing the place has from the past is the same. The lands in the area got tired from overuse and a growing population, and some people left.

Those who use the lands today are the fellows with money to invest in regeneration. In the past, if you were poor, you built a grass thatched house. Today if you are a poor, you can’t afford a good grass-thatched house; that is for chaps with money. Instead, you build with a cheap iron roof, and some kind of cement wall – not mud and wattle.

Good grass is hard to find, and when available pricey. And, increasingly, land is being enclosed, and river beds and wetlands have silted or taken over for agriculture. Mud and sand are now rare.

Unable to forage, and get materials from the commons, economic conditions for rural people have become more desperate, hence the rise of violent crime. Perhaps not yet on a major scale in Kenya, but in other countries like Democratic Republic of Congo, and parts of Tanzania, it has resulted in the removal of the people who are considered the least economically productive - children and old people — from the supper table, as it were.

They are either accused of being witches and killed, or taken to the forest and strangled or bludgeoned — but the bodies left where they can be found, in a bizarre attempt to appease the spirit of the dead by not denying them a funeral.


Sand, according to the UN, is the second most heavily traded raw material, after water, with between 40 and 50 billion tonnes traded globally per year. Right from the “modern” houses being built upcountry, to the new estates in the towns and cities driven by rising urban populations, and the new islands being created out of the sea by countries like the United Arab Emirates and China, sand is very big business.

Construction boom
If you go just five years back, and put together stories of the devastation of sand harvesting in Kenya, it is horrifying. It has destroyed parts of the coast and northeast already.

One report notes that Singapore, the world’s largest importer of sand, has expanded its area by 130 kilometres in 40 years, which has required about 500 million tonnes of sand to be imported over the past 20 years.

In West Africa, several countries are losing chunks of their coastline to sand harvesting, and millions of people are being driven from their coastal homes.

Sand smugglers and excavators, with money in their pockets, are bulking up operations and could soon be the new well-armed rebel armies, controlling land for harvesting as galloping urbanisation and its attendant construction boom drives their profits.

And rural lands will be further trashed in crises brought on more by illegal sand, leaving more people desperate, with killings and kidnappings for livelihoods (see Nigeria) increasing. The Nyeri murders and Kisumu’s militant sand baggers, aren’t just local Kenyan county tales. They are our pan-African and scary futures.

Twitter@cobbo3

https://nation.africa/kenya/blogs-opinion/opinion/terror-of-kisumu-gangs-nyeri-killers-3237858

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