Bandit-prone North Rift stares at restive season
While people in other parts of the country are upbeat about the end-of-year festivities, those in bandit-prone counties of the North Rift have nothing to celebrate.
The situation has been occasioned by rampant insecurity which has seen their livestock — a major source of livelihood — wiped out by armed criminals.
At least 170 people, among them security personnel, have been killed by bandits and thousands displaced in the past year alone.
Many residents who spoke to People Daily yesterday narrated how banditry has completely shattered their dreams. They called on the Kenya Kwanza Government to fulfil its pledge to restore calm in the region.
“Our people have nothing to celebrate as the festive season starts. This is a season of untold suffering at the hands of armed bandits. The government should deal with this menace once and for all,” said Richard Chepchomei, an elder from the bandit-hit Bartabwa in Baringo North sub-county.
People Daily established that cattle raids and retaliations, which started in March 2016, have claimed more than 100 lives, with thousands of livestock stolen.
Development has stagnated.
The situation has adversely hampered education, with hundreds of students in Turkana, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Baringo dropping out of colleges and universities due to lack of fees after their parents lost their livestock to bandits.
“The lives of these students have been destroyed. It is only fair that the Government settles their fees,” said David Kimunyan, a youth leader from Kerio Valley.
A spot-check revealed that many villages are deserted after hundreds of families fled their homes. At least 200 students from Arabal location in Baringo South sub-county risk dropping out of college.
The worst hit schools in Baringo North include: Chepkewel, Kalabata, Yatia, Sibilo, Kapturo, Chemindany,Tilingwo, Kagir, Ng’aratuko, Kosile, Rormoch, Chepkesin, Kamwetio, Chepkew, Barketiew and Moinonin.
In Baringo South, the worst hit areas include Arabal, Ruggus, Mukutani, Kasiela, Chebinyiny, Chemorongion, Ng’elecha, Sinoni, Nyimbei, Tuiyotich and Kapindasum.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mohamed Maalim yesterday assured that arrangements have been made to restore security during the festive season. “More security personnel have been deployed to the areas we consider insecurity hotspots to ensure that everybody enjoys a peaceful festive season. We will not tolerate any form of lawlessness,” said the administrator.
The government has since deployed hundreds of officers in the region as part of efforts to address the perennial menace.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki last week toured Samburu County where he launched a specialised training course for 300 National Police Reservists (NPRs) who will complement special units deployed to combat banditry and cattle rustling in the North Rift.
He said a multi-pronged approach targeting a permanent end to cyclic conflict is being embraced by the Government. “Chiefs and their assistants will also be armed, subject to relevant training, alongside a surge of deployed manpower with officers authorised to discharge maximum firepower against outlaws.”
President William Ruto has also issued an order to security personnel to deal firmly with bandits wreaking havoc in the country. The banditry-prone region has been witnessing a surge in insecurity despite peace efforts by lawmakers, administrators and community leaders.
The government has since rolled out a security operation to seize illegal firearms in Baringo and Turkana counties following the recent killing of 11 people, among them eight GSU personnel in Turkana.
A security operation dubbed “Komesha Uhalifu in the North Rift” is being conducted by a multi-agency security team.