10 raids a week, bandits battle KDF in North Rift

A police reservist in Arabal

A police reservist in Arabal escorts primary school pupils home on March 14.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

In a brazen act of defiance, bandits yesterday launched an attack on a village just kilometres from where Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers are launching air raids in Tandare valley.

The raiders hit Chemorongion village in Baringo South sub-county, about 20 kilometres from Tandare and took off with more than 100 goats.

In neighbouring Baringo North, residents held demonstrations accusing the government of failing to end insecurity.

In just a week, the two sub-counties have witnessed more than 10 attacks, resulting in one fatality, several injuries and the theft of hundreds of cattle, sheep and goats.

In Yatya village, two people, including a Grade Five pupil, are receiving treatment following twin attacks.

Pressure is mounting on President William Ruto to take more decisive action against the criminals.

Locals want the President to order Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Defence colleague Aden Duale to hit the gangs harder than what they are witnessing.

 “Many people have been killed in the five months of Prof Kindiki being Interior minister. The victims are not just statistics but lives lost,” Mr Matthew Chemweno, a resident of Kerio Valley, said yesterday.

“We elected President Ruto after he promised to bring lasting peace in Kerio Valley but the killings show no signs of ending.”

Ms Rael Chebon from Arabal village said the government has run of options and appears to be losing the war against bandits and livestock thieves.

“The operation by the KDF and other security organs is just on paper. Nothing is happening on the ground. We are being terrorised by criminals daily and wonder what is being bombed in the first place,” she said.

Mr Moses Kimosop, another Arabal resident, dismissed the security operation.

“The bandits are moving around, killing, maiming and stealing with impunity. It is like there is no government,” Mr Kimosop said.

“We are at the mercy of armed gangs. I wish the government security agencies could change their tactics when dealing with banditry. Soon there will be no person left here.”

For several days, KDF and other security organs have bombed areas believed to be hideouts of criminals.

Headteachers, tutors and parents in the insecurity prone border villages of Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties have raised fears of learning institutions not reopening on Monday after breaking for half term due to the growing number of attacks by armed criminals.

They say they are not assured of the children’s and teachers’ safety as the armed gangs have moved close to villages after fleeing their hideouts.

Mr Richard Chepchomei, a resident of Chemoe, said he and other villagers would not release their children for school until they are assured of security by the government.

Mr Chepchomei said locals are surprised that the killings and stealing of livestock are going on despite the much-hyped operation by the military.

“Tension is high in Kagir, Chemoe, Ng’aratuko, Kosile, Yatya and Chepkesin because of the ongoing attacks,” Mr Chepchomei said.

“Dozens of armed criminals are roaming the border villages despite the operation to destroy them. We are not ready to release our children for school.”

He added that if the government does not step up its efforts to end the insecurity menace, schools that had been closed due to flare-ups two years ago would be shut once more.

“More than seven attacks have been reported in Kagir, Yatya and Chemoe villages in the last five days. Why is this is still happening when we have been told that a security operation is ongoing? Who is sleeping on the job?” he asked.

Mr Chepchomei added that armed men have occupied Barsuswo, Koloswo, Kapturo, Kagir, Yatya, Chemoe, Kaborion and Chepkesin villages.

Mr John Wendot, a resident of Kasiela in Baringo South, said attacks on villages have intensified despite the bombing raids on bandits’ hideouts in Tandare, Korkoron and Karau hills.

“I don’t think these bombardments are changing anything. The soldiers and other security personnel need to physically move to these hideouts. This may be an operation in futility,” Mr Wendot said.

He added that criminal gangs have also moved to Katilomwo, Tosiokwang, Seremwo, Korkoron, Karma, Ng’elecha , Losokoni and Ramacha villages.

“If the attacks don’t end, our children will not go to school. We will not gamble with the lives of our children in the name of education. The government that is supposed to protect us is not doing enough,” Mr Wendot said.

“The security officers should go to those hideouts. How sure are they that the bombs are hitting their targets?”

Kagir Primary School head, Thomas Kibet, said the attack that saw a Grade Five pupil sustain gunshot injuries sparked tension in the area.

“The bandits have fled from their hideouts and are now roaming the villages, staging attacks,” Mr Kibet said.

“It may not be safe for learners coming from as far as Yatya and Ng’aratuko to come to school. Non-local teachers who are on mid-term break have raised fears of their safety. If normality does not return, learning in this region will be greatly affected.”

The headteacher added that raiders fired shots at villagers fetching water from a borehole, 100 metres from the school, on Thursday.

The government gazetted Baringo, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Samburu and Laikipia as disburbed and dangerous counties on February 13, imposing a 30-day dusk-to-dawn curfew.

President Ruto then ordered a security operation and deployed the military to help police smoke out bandits and seize guns in the hands of civilians in the six counties.

The decision followed constant attacks on villages leading to deaths, injuries, destruction of property and theft of livestock.

Despite the security operation, attacks are still being reported.