Eight killed in Kerio Valley bandit attack

Kerio Valley bandit attack

Men armed with bows and arrows keep vigil at a hill in the border village of Kapturo in Baringo North on February 20, 2022.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

Two minors are among eight people killed in a daring bandit attack on the banks of River Kerio in the restive Kerio Valley. Several others were seriously injured in Saturday afternoon attack.

The incident happened when dozens of herders from Kipnai and Loiwat villages in Tiaty West Sub-County were ambushed by armed men suspected to be from Marakwet community after they crossed Siromet grazing field in the neighbouring Marakwet East Sub-County.

A fierce exchange of fire that lasted for hours ensued between the two groups, leading to casualties from both sides, among them a 12-year-old boy who was a Grade Three pupil at Adich primary school in Tiaty and another one aged 15. They were herding thousands of livestock along the volatile border.

The attackers managed to drive away an unknown number of livestock towards Chesongoch in Marakwet East.

Tension high

Tension remains high in the area and the killings have ignited animosities between the warring Pokot and Marakwet communities.

Confirming the incident, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mohamed Maalim said the herders from Tiaty and the attackers from Marakwet Sub-Counties suffered casualties who have been identified.

“The attack happened at 3pm after herders from the Pokot community, among them minors took, their livestock to Siromet grazing field in Kibaimwa Location in Marakwet East when they were ambushed and attacked by armed criminals from the Marakwet community, who also made away with an unknown number of livestock,” said Mr Maalim.

“During the gun fight, four of the herders, among them two minors were killed and four of the attackers also lost their lives. Three people also sustained gunshot wounds and one of them is a minor who was among the herders and is recuperating at a facility in Tiaty West Sub-County,” he added.

Treated under watch

The regional commissioner issued a directive that the two herders who were also wounded in the attack be treated under the watch of security officers and once they heal, they will be arrested and charged in court.

“We are informed that an unknown number of livestock were also stolen and driven towards Chesongoch in Marakwet East and I have instructed the county commissioner and his deputy to make a follow-up and ensure all of them are recovered in the shortest time possible,” said the administrator.

“We are also calling on health workers in the region to desist from treating people with gunshot wounds without reporting to the police to ascertain where they sustained them from,” he added.

Mr Maalim raised concern that the incessant attacks in the area that has earned the name “valley of death” have been fuelled by the proliferation of firearms where more communities in the war-torn area arm themselves despite calls by the government to surrender the illegal guns.

Baringo South bandit attacks

Locals fleeing the banditry-prone Sinoni village in Baringo South after two people were shot dead by armed criminals on February 4, 2022.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

Illegal firearms

“While on a tour to the insecurity-prone Tot in Kerio Valley a month ago, I issued a warning that all civilians in possession of illegal firearms to surrender them but it seems more communities are continuing to arm themselves. We are going to make a follow-up [to establish] if those killed in the attack are among the names who had been instructed to voluntarily surrender them,” said Mr Maalim.

He also warned that no community, either Pokot or Marakwet, should cross River Kerio in the pretext of looking for pasture until a decision is arrived at during a security meeting between elders and the security committee from the two counties scheduled for Wednesday.

"The attacks are majorly resource-based conflicts fuelled by limited pasture owing to the long dry spell. But I have directed a security meeting [be held] between the county commissioners and elders from both counties to deliberate and form grazing committees. Until then, no one should cross another community's territory because that will attract stringent measures," said Mr Maalim.

The incident happens a week after a driver of Mogil Secondary School bus was shot dead and more than 15 leaners and their teachers injured after they were attacked by armed criminals along the Arror-Tot road in Kerio Valley.

Academic tour

The 10.30 pm incident happened when the learners and their tutors from Tot Secondary School were returning from an academic tour in the neighbouring Baringo County.

After the incident, interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i indicated that he will seek approval from the National Security Council to have the bandits declared a terror group.

The attacks come at a time when thousands of candidates are preparing to sit for their national examination amid concerns by parents about the safety of their children.

Following the incessant attacks, learning has been hampered in several schools in Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, with others remaining closed since the beginning of this term.

Thousands of people have also been displaced from their homes and the affected locals have been turned into paupers after all their property was stolen or destroyed by the armed attackers.