Bandits now target children for kidnapping and murder

Police reservist

A National Police Reservist escorts pupils of Kapindasum Primary School in Arabal, Baringo County to Chemorongion trading centre to board a bus to their homes after breaking for half term on March 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • On Monday, armed men shot dead two children who were on their way to school in Baringo County.
  • In yet another incident in West Pokot County, two children were shot and injured by suspected bandits.

An emerging trend in the escalating banditry attacks that have hit the North Rift region, where children are targeted for abduction and murder, has left residents and local leaders shaken to the core.

Some of the abducted children are tortured before being killed, locals claimed, even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced tougher measures to rein in the menace.

Residents claim the abductions and killings are aimed at provoking retaliatory attacks from rival communities. 

In the latest incident in Baringo County on Monday, armed men waylaid two children who were on their way to school and shot them dead.

Kapindasum Primary School

A police officers patrol inside a classroom while a lesson is in progress at Kapindasum Primary School in Baringo South on October 7, 2019. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Last week, a 12-year-old girl in Akulo village, Turkana County, was abducted and held for a few days before being dumped unharmed in Turkana East.

In yet another incident in West Pokot County, two children who were shot and injured by suspected bandits are recuperating at the Kapenguria County Referral Hospital. 

Additionally, two boys aged 11 and 10 were shot after being kidnapped by bandits who ambushed them while herding livestock in Kamurion village on the border of West Pokot and Turkana counties.

Another boy, Eliya Lwalenyang, was abducted in Songok village and held for six hours, before being rescued in the dead of night by National Police Reservists and other security officers who were in hot pursuit of the abductors.

Ombolion Chief Joseph Korkimul told Nation the objective of the change in tactics by the bandits is yet to be established.

“We believe it is to provoke reaction in the form of retaliatory attacks,” he said.

Linah Kales, a parent in Kases, said women and children should be shielded from the violence.

“It is disappointing that, even though we have a strong security presence near schools, they [security officers] don’t protect children,” she said.

Pokot South lawmaker David Pkosing lamented that the attacks have left a trail of sorrow and bloodshed.

“These criminals often choose to strike soft targets in innocent women and children, who are the most defenceless and vulnerable,” the MP said.

He frowned at the growing rate of abductions, saying the trend risks escalating if not addressed by the government. 

“If such incidents are left unaddressed, we will be reversing all the gains that have been made in convincing parents to take their children to school, negatively impacting learning.” 

West Pokot Senator Julius Murgor expressed concerns over persistent attacks despite increased investment of public funds to curb insecurity in the region.

West Pokot County Police Commander Peter Kattam said security teams in the region are keen on cracking down on major hideouts used by bandits.

“We are focusing on arresting the masterminds,” he said.

West Pokot County Commissioner Khaliff Abdullahi expressed optimism that the guns will be silenced once and for all.


Pupils at Kapindasum Primary School in Baringo South lie on the floor for safety after bandits attacked near the school on October 24, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The region is in the throes of a social and economic upheaval, even as a counter-banditry operation launched by a multi-agency team deployed continues to flounder with criminals terrorising residents with impunity.

In Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Turkana, and Samburu counties, banditry has caused untold suffering. Frequent droughts, which often trigger cattle raids, have exacerbated the situation.

Despite the interventions of successive administrations, the menace persists, resulting in forced displacements, disrupted livelihoods, and a sense of hopelessness.

Schools and learning institutions have been shut down, further impacting the quality of life in the affected communities.

Last Sunday’s killing of Angata Nanyekie MCA Paul Leshimpiro, in Samburu North further brought to the fore the brutality of the criminals. Leshimpiro, a vocal advocate for peace, had pleaded with President William Ruto to personally intervene just days before his tragic death.

“Mr President, do not suggest to us that bandits have overpowered you. Do not suggest to us that you are less armed than bandits,” the politician had said on January 29 during the burial of a slain National Police Reservist in the Morijo area of his ward.

The government's failure to protect innocent citizens has sparked outrage among local leaders. Samburu Senator Steve Lelegwe and Samburu North MP Eli Letipila mourned Leshimpiro highlighted the devastating impact of banditry in the region.

“Homes and businesses have been destroyed, schools have been closed and people have fled their homes for temporary camps,”Dr Lelegwe said.

“What will we do? The government has failed totally. Our souls are bleeding for this loss,” Mr Letipila said on Sunday.

Leshimpiro’s killing adds to a long list of wasted lives, casualties of a senseless war.

Early this week, a father and his three-year-old son were killed by suspected bandits in Lolmolog village in Samburu County.

On February 10, a blind primary school headteacher was shot and killed in Ngaratuko in Baringo County.

And on January 25, 2024, suspected bandits pumped nearly 15 bullets into Laikipia based rancher Lucy Wambui Jennings' car, leaving her with gunshot wounds on her head and arm.

Since she moved into her 4,000-acre ranch in Rumuruti in the 1970s, it has been invaded by illegal grazers several times.

Just like the nearby Laikipia Ranching Conservancy and Mugie Ranch, Jennings had suffered for years in the hands of illegal grazers.

She fled for dear life after bandits raided the ranch in 2010 and drove away 400 heads of cattle. Four years ago her chief security officer, Mr Joseph Lokurchan, was shot dead by bandits who stole 30 heads of cattle.

Police reservist

A National Police Reservist escorts pupils of Kapindasum Primary School in Arabal, Baringo County to Chemorongion trading centre to board a bus to their homes after breaking for half term on March 14, 2023.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

Daring broad-daylight attacks have now become daily fare despite intensified security patrols by police and Kenya Defence Forces soldiers.

In Samburu for instance, bandits always take advantage of the bushy areas along the roads, from where they hide and lay ambush on security personnel and passenger vehicles.

The Baragoi-Maralal highway, where Leshimpiro met his death, is a trouble spot. Bandits have also reportedly turned Malaso Valleys into a killing field as they continue to stage attacks across Samburu West Sub-county.

Recently, Samburu West residents petitioned the Senate to intervene, saying, they have suffered fatalities and injuries caused by bandits who are operating in Malaso and Lorroki.

Reporting by Oscar Kakai, Geoffrey Ondieki and Eric Matara