Glimmer of hope as drive to flush out bandits starts
by Wycliff Kipsang
Hopes are high in the banditry prone North Rift region after the government rolled out a massive security operation to seize illegal firearms.
It follows the killing of more than 60 people and displacement of scores of others in the past three months in Baringo, Turkana and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i has ordered for the immediate arrest of people inciting the herders to turn against each other and those said to be funding the conflicts for selfish political gain.
“We will no longer condone any form of lawlessness. We will arrest all the perpetrators and ensure that we seize all firearms in the wrong hands,” warned Matiang’i.
Leaders from the region who spoke to People Daily yesterday expressed optimism that the security operation will this time bear fruit unlike in the past.
“Nothing much has come out of past operations. I hope this time the operation will achieve the results for our people to enjoy lasting peace,” said Richard Chepchomei, an elder from the crime-riddled Bartabwa in Baringo North sub-county.
The residents have also called on the government to reopen all schools closed as a result of insecurity and provide them with enough security.
Leaders in the region among them Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Governors: Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo-Marakwet) and John Lonyangapuo of West Pokot, however, urged the government to ensure that the operation is carried out in a humane manner.
“We should not witness cases where innocent civilians are harrased by security personnel while others are abducted and later found killed,”said Murkomen.
Matiang’i, who spoke on Friday after holding a meeting with leaders from banditry prone counties in the North Rift in Nakuru was categorical that rampant cases of insecurity in the North Rift is no longer about cattle rustling but it seems to have been commercialised by well-connected individuals.
“We are in hot pursuit of certain people including leaders. We will act decisively to ensure that those facilitating this illegal venture face the full force of the law. It doesn’t matter how long it will take for us to achieve this,” warned the CS.
Most parts of the North Rift have not known peace for a long time with the worst hit being Baringo, Turkana and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties where many residents have been killed and others displaced from their homes.
The latest of the attacks was on Saturday afternoon where one person was shot dead at the volatile Kapedo at the border of Baringo and Turkana counties.
Tension remains high in the area with vehicles plying Marigat-Loruk road unable to travel for fear of retaliatory attacks.
People Daily has established that at least 10 people have been shot dead in the past one week alone in Baringo South and Baringo North sub-counties.
In one of a bizarre incident on Tuesday last week at Kasiela in Baringo South, armed bandits from a neighbouring community shot dead two brothers and chopped off the hand of one of them.
The daring bandits also made way with more than 300 goats the two: Samuel Chepsat and David Chepsat were herding.
It took more than 12 hours for the bodies of the deceased to be retrieved from the volatile area where residents have resorted to arm themselves with bows and arrows.
The incident happened a day after another person was shot dead and two others injured in the neighbouring Arabal.
In another incident two weeks ago, a trader riding on a boda boda was shot dead at Lamaiwe area in the same sub-county and his body set ablaze.
The killings have sparked a mass exodus from the area as residents flee fearing for their lives. The worst affected areas include: Sinoni, Lamaiwe, Seretion,Kasiela, Kapindasum and Kapkechir where more than 5,000 residents have fled to the safer Mochongoi area.
Local leaders among them Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren and Mochongoi ward MCA Kipruto Kimossop yesterday expressed fears that the armed bandits were determined to instill fear on the residents to expand their territories ahead of the August 9 polls.
“This is no longer about cattle rustling. It seems the bandits are determined to drive away our people from their ancestral land. We wonder why leaders from Tiaty have kept silent on this issue,” said Kamuren.
The leaders faulted the government for disarming National Police Reservists (NPRs) which they said has exposed residents to bandits.
The government has defended the move arguing that it made the decision after it emerged that some of the NPRs were misusing their firearms by colluding with criminals.
The situation has adversely affected provision of education in the area with learning paralysed in more than 10 schools in Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties.
The worst hit schools include: Chepkesin, Kagir, Kamwetio, Kosile, Chepkew, Kapturo, Yatya, Lamaiywe, Kapkechir, Karne and Tuiyotich primary schools. Also affected is Tuiyotich secondary school.
Incoming Baringo County Commissioner Abdirasack Jaldesa and County Commander Robinson Ndiwa, who toured Kasiela area urged residents to remain calm as security personnel pursue the armed bandits wreaking havoc in the region. Jaldesa aknowledges that a massive disarmament exercise in the area is the only lasting solution to the perennial problem.
“The government is in the process of opening up roads connecting Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties to ease response during emergencies,” Jaldesa told People Daily.
Tension is also high in Kainuk area in Turkana county after armed bandits struck the area on Thursday and made away with more than 3,000 livestock. According to Michael Lokeru, a resident, the bandits from a neighbouring community got herders unawares during the 2am incident. “They attacked Karenyang and Ekolong manyattas. They are taking advantage of the disarmament of NPRs,” said Lokeru.
Kainuk location Chief Sarah Lochodo urged the residents to be calm as she was liasing with her colleagues in the neighbouring county to recover the stolen livestock.