Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis has demanded answers from the government over an alleged white helicopter that has been cited in numerous security meetings, suspected to be supplying fire arms and ammunition to bandits in the notorious Korkon holls in Baringo County, with police confirming that it was cited again last week.
The helicopter has been mentioned in numerous security meetings, with locals and reservists claiming it lands in the bandits’ hideout in Baringo South. Locals claim that whenever the helicopter is sighted, bandit attacks follow soon after.
The Korkoron Hills are where hundreds of armed bandits graze livestock as they survey and plan their attacks. There have been questions on where the bandits get their fire arms and why they never run out of ammunition, which they use in attacks, including in fierce gun exchanges with security officers.
Latest reports confirmed by police indicate that the chopper resurfaced recently and was spotted last Sunday and Monday. It had gone missing after a public outcry and reports carried by Daily Nation in March.
Governor Kiptis has asked the County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa and the County Police Commander Adamson Bungei to fast-tract investigations into activities of the helicopter in the area.
“We are told that helicopter lands more than three times a week and precedes attacks and stock theft. What association does it have with the armed criminals wreaking havoc in this region? Can the government not establish who owns it? The locals are claiming that it recently landed in the area again,” the governor said.
Mr Bungei confirmed that the helicopter resurfaced recently after several months and was spotted by locals and security officers in a camp near the notorious area flying low.
“It is true the white helicopter was seen by security officers stationed at the volatile Lamaiywe on two consecutive days. It landed on Sunday and Monday in Mandare, in Korkoron Hill, an area bordering the neighboring Laikipia County and it is said to have been flying low, though the number plates were not legible because they saw it from a far distance in the desolate villages where inhabitants have fled” said Mr Bungei.
According to the county police boss, the helicopter took 30 minutes after landing in the area before it flew back towards Laikipia, but it was not clear what it was doing in the deserted area occupied by armed criminals.
“The white copter, we are informed, had stopped going to the area since March after a public outcry. But it was replaced with a grey one thereafter. We are carrying out a probe to ascertain it’s the mission and the owner. We have also consulted with the aviation authority to also do a follow up on the flights in that area so that we may get a clue,” he stated.
On Madaraka Day celebrations at Kabarnet Museum grounds, Governor Kiptis demanded that the government gets serious enough and investigate the owner of the chopper and its business in the war-tone area where thousands of locals have been displaced by the spate of banditry attacks.
The governor said armed bandits were terrorizing locals and security officers deployed to bring sanity in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia counties.
“I want to ask the government and the National Assembly that the bandits should be declared an outlawed group and be dealt with accordingly. This county is grappling with a lot of challenges, including food shortage occasioned by a dry spell and if is combined with insecurity, then things will get out of hand,” said the Governor.
In March, locals who spoke at the peace meeting demanded that the government makes public the registration details of the helicopter, its owners and its mission there, saying, each time it’s spotted, attacks occur after a day or two.
“For one to fly a helicopter or any other aircraft, one must be licensed by the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. We need to be told who owns the helicopter and what business it engages in. If it is the one supplying ammunition to bandits, it must be shot down,” Mr Eric Kibet, a local said.
“At first we thought it belonged to the police and was carrying out aerial surveys. To our surprise, security officers deployed here have disowned it,” said Mr Kibet.
A former police reservist Mr Benjamin Kangog from Lamaiywe claimed that, since January, he has seen the white helicopter more than four times.
“It seems whoever operates it got wind that the locals were aware of its underhand dealings in the region and it stopped landing, but it hovers over the hill and we suspect it drops something before it leaves. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes. Immediately after that, we will hear of an attack within the area or in neighboring villages,” he claimed.
The locals told Nation that the helicopter is often spotted after each attack, raising suspicions that it might be restocking ammunition used by the bandits.
He cited the Kasiela attacks in March that left two people dead where the helicopter was seen the following day heading towards Korkoron at 6:45 am and leaving after approximately 10 minutes.
“During attacks, the criminals fight with police for hours without depleting their ammunition, which they use unsparingly, meaning that they have more than enough. Where then do they get a constant supply yet they live in the bushes? Powerful individuals are involved in this and the government must name them if peace is to be attained,” said Mr Kangogo who served as a reservist for three years.
He cited an incident in February where, together with tens of locals, they were building a road in the volatile Lamaiywe to enable security patrol in Korkoron and Tandar villages
“We were under the watch of several police officers who engaged the bandits. There was a fierce exchange of gunfire between the criminals and the police for more than three hours, but, surprisingly, the bandits never run out of ammunition. An armored police vehicle came to our rescue and they decided to flee,” he explained.
In a battle field, Mr Kangogo argued, one would expect combatants to use their ammunition sparingly, but the bandits are often extravagant with their bullets, engaging security officers for an entire day without running out of the ammunition, an indication that they have more than adequate supplies.
“This makes us suspect that the white helicopter may be replenishing their supplies,” he said. He further claimed that, sometimes, the helicopter passes through the area and heads towards Lake Bogoria and to Baringo North and, a day later, attacks are staged in the areas.
“If it is true someone is supplying ammunition to the bandits who are wreaking havoc in the region, then he is an influential person because no ordinary person can dare engage in such a risky affair and with a helicopter to boot, which must be expensive. We need an immediate probe, otherwise we will be wiped out by the criminals,” said Mr Kangogo.
Responding to the claims, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mohamed Maalim promised in March to investigate the matter and unravel who owns the helicopter and the reasons behind the frequent visits to the area.
“You have said a helicopter suspected to be bringing a consignment of ammunition to the bandits disguising as herders has been seen hovering the notorious Korkoron Hills. The issue was also mentioned during our meeting with the county security team and I want to assure the locals that the matter is already under investigation,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter what position the people behind the helicopter hold and how influential they are, we will go after them and bring them to book. I don’t want to divulge more but we will get into it with the security officials as soon as possible,” he added.
Baringo Criminal Investigations boss Joseph Mumira said previously that a probe into the chopper had been slowed by the scanty information given by locals at peace forums.
He told Nation locals had not given sufficient information on the said helicopter, including the number plates and the dates or time it was seen.