Valley of d***h haunts Jubilee team to the end

Thursday, June 16th, 2022 03:26 | By
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i (centre) with Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Maalim Mohammed (left) during a security meeting at Tot in Elgeyo Marakwet county. PD/Wycliffe Kipsang

Brutal killings continue to dot the death-ridden Kerio Valley in the sunset days of the ruling Jubilee administration despite efforts to rein in the brazen banditry that has made the region inhabitable.

With under two months to the August polls that would spell the end of the Jubilee administration, the Valley is yet again facing one of its deadliest episodes as bandits comfortably roam the volatile region spanning Baringo, Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot, Samburu and Turkana, shooting everyone in sight including children.  

Last week, three children aged between nine and 11 were among four people killed by bandits at Tot in Marakwet East causing an uproar nationally as leaders wondered what they had done to deserve to be pumped with bullets.

Area Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who shared the gory photos of the bodies of the children on his social media pages, said their brutal killing should prick the nation’s conscience beseeching the President to personally take charge of the government’s response to the incessant attacks.

“Please Kenyans help me force President Kenyatta, CS Matiang’i and IG Mutyambai to do something to end the killings. We are losing lives daily. I have attached the pictures of the murdered kids. It’s painful,” the Senator said.

Since the beginning of the year, the region has gradually turned into a valley of death, a paradise of marauding bandits exploiting the security gap left following the withdrawal of police reservists who had, for ages, helped minimise attacks.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i withdrew the reservists in 2019 citing their alleged role in fanning the banditry and also the need for them to undergo formal training.

After the children’s massacre, Matiang’i accompanied by Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai flew to Tot, which is one of the most volatile regions considering its location in the border between Marakwet and Pokot communities, to condole with the family promising a government-response like no other although he has issued similar warning before that failed to deter deadlier attacks.

The CS has also imposed a 30-day dusk-dawn curfew beginning June 4 in the insecure regions including Tot Ward, six locations in Chesongoch Ward and also Chesuman and Arror locations in Marakwet West, to regain government’s control of the expansive region. The curfew also covers Tiaty, Sibilo, Yatya and Kinyach in Baringo and Chesegon and Sigor in West Pokot.

Curfew? What curfew

Despite the curfew, gunfire still rends the air and an attack was reported in Tapach Ward in West Pokot a day after it was imposed.

The Interior CS has, however, said they will not spare anyone involved this time around as he launched a security operation to flush out the bandits.

“We are going to have an unprecedented operation here. It is going to be a painful experience but we are going to go after these people with maximum fire and force because that is the only option left for us,” he said.

The CS said it was not going to be business as usual saying the bandits had crossed the red line by targeting children.

“It’s heart-rending listening to the pained narratives of mothers and families who have lost their children to bandits in Kerio valley. There can never be justification for such dastardly acts. Even in traditional warfare, our cultures forbid the spilling of children’s lives,” he said.  

In his Madaraka Day speech, the President acknowledged the challenge the Kerio Valley bandits had posed to his administration saying targeting children was an attempt to rob the country of its future.

“We are also still faced with security challenges in parts of the country including Kerio Valley where bandits cannot even spare our children, robbing us our future,” said the President, who will finish his two terms with his administration having failed to wipe out banditry, a deadly vice that has haunted all the previous three administrations.

Peace efforts

In February, armed bandits sprayed bullets on a school bus belonging to Tot Secondary School at a banditry-prone spot on Arror-Tot killing the driver and injuring 15 students who were travelling from an academic trip in Baringo.

Since the beginning of the year, the border between Elgeyo Markawet and West Pokot has recorded numerous deadly attacks by bandits who appear to relish the government’s half-hearted reaction to daring raids.

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Governor Wisley Rotich, who has been recording every attack on his social media handles, expressed his frustrations at the government’s lax response to the incessant attacks in the region. Early this year, he wrote a personal letter to the President asking him to intervene.

“It remains a mystery where bandits get the confidence and the bullets to kill and maim in broad daylight and walk scot-free. It is now everyone for himself in the Kerio Valley and God for all of us. I urge the community to fully take charge of their own security as self-defence and avoid retaliatory attacks because that only serves to aggravate the situation,” said Rotich.

The West Pokot-Turkana border has also been volatile this year despite a lull following various peace efforts. School-going children have also been targeted in the region with two boys recently injured following a banditry attack at Sarmach on the border.

West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo asked security agencies to intensify efforts to return peace to the border.

“I am greatly saddened by the resurgence of incidences of livestock theft and loss of lives in an area that has enjoyed relative peace since 2017. I call upon security officers and the national government to quickly swing into action to stop the senseless killings,” said the governor. 

Kerio Valley has been a thorn in the flesh for the previous governments that unsuccessfully tried to take back control of the region from bandits.  

It can be remembered that one of the legendary insults late President Kibaki ever delivered in public was at the volatile valley in 2005 when he visited the region after yet another deadly attack by bandits. He branded the banditsmavi ya kuku (chicken droppings).

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