Kerio Valley killings: Will Kindiki succeed where Matiang’i, others failed?

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki. 

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Ragtag militia embedded in the local communities posing as cattle rustlers and bandits is reigning in the region, unleashing terror with great abandon
  • Sources say the CS will later this afternoon declare an operation to flush out bandits
  • The Interior CS has been on the receiving end, with a section of the local community accusing him of bias in measures to address the situation

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki is holed up in a security meeting with top security chiefs from the Kerio Valley belt at Lake Bogoria Spa Resort in Baringo, in the wake of the never-ending insecurity in the region.

The CS, who is said to have spent the night at the Baringo hotel ahead of today’s meeting, is expected to issue a statement later.

The meeting started today morning and sources indicated that Prof Kindiki is likely to declare a fresh security operation to flush out marauding bandits wreaking havoc in the region, among other measures.

That the Kerio Valley counties of Turkana, West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Samburu, and Laikipia are steadily turning into a valley of death is no longer in doubt going by the daily banditry killings.

Ragtag militia embedded in the local communities posing as cattle rustlers and bandits is reigning in the region, unleashing terror with great abandon. 

Sporadic raids

This past week alone, raiders have been launching sporadic raids with military precision killing, maiming, and stealing livestock.

The situation has left the Interior CS on the receiving end, with a section of the local community accusing him of bias in measures to address the situation.

In West Pokot for instance, political leaders, led by Governor Simon Kachapin have threatened to sue the State over the atrocities happening in the region, claiming the Pokot community was being unfairly targeted in security operations.

On Monday night, bandits struck Tot in Marakwet East killing a motorcycle rider and leaving his pillion passenger for the dead after spraying him with bullets. 

This preceded other attacks in West Pokot, Baringo, and Samburu counties.

As the attackers traverse the region, the government appears to have been beaten in its game because the interventions put in place have failed to bear any fruit; instead, the killings are increasing by the day. 

Undeterred

Even a police crack unit set up to deal with the bandits, disarmament, and a series of curfews has not deterred the bandits.

In January 2023, after the killing of two girls in Ketut village, Marakwet East sub-county, Prof Kindiki ordered the immediate recruitment of 450 police reservists to complement security agencies in restoring order. 

He also directed the officers to use guns to defend locals and their properties as well as themselves.

“Even the Bible says who live by the sword should die in the same manner. We do not have even a single excuse but ensure the people of Kerio valley sleep peacefully in their houses by classifying Kerio valley insecurity as an act of terrorism. There should be no two ways about it and we should not beat around the bush but the criminals should be met head-on,” he said during his visit to Kerio valley.

“We need to be decisive in the manner we handle the bandits because it hurts each time we come here not for development projects but to condole the bereaved families after their kin are felled by the bandits’ gun. The bandits have dared the government enough times and now they should face the full force of the law.”

Child's play

But it appeared to be child’s play to the emboldened bandits who launched multiple deadly raids since then.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wesley Rotich said in January over 10 people, including a police reservist were felled by the bandits’ bullets.

Leaders and locals in the region desperate for a solution have now been reduced to spectators with Governor Rotich saying they have employed all peace efforts available with no success.

Some of the leaders who campaigned for President William Ruto Kenya Kwanza's government with the hope of a magic bullet to end the bloodletting have now turned to social media to lament and castigate attacks whenever they happen.

But unlike in the past where they would call out the government for inaction in quelling the menace, they are now at the mercy of the same administration they put in place.

Change of tact

Endo Mission Parish cleric Father Dominic Kibet said it was time the government changed tack in dealing with the insecurity menace because they have power and capacity.

“Kerio Valley has been turned into a cemetery because of bandits. This is terrible and through experience, police reservists have proved to be effective. Criminals are few and known, the government should conduct effective disarmament in the region,” he said.

Marakwet East MP David Bowen said Prof Kindiki should not be like his predecessors who were quick to issue ultimatums but fail to protect the lives of the locals.

“There should be no life loss again, when banditry is classified as terrorism the KDF will now be in charge and we will be happy when an army barracks is constructed in Kerio valley and their training conducted there to serve as deterrence to bandits,” he said.

Failed interventions

Governor Rotich said dialogue, signing of a peace accord, leaders meeting, security meetings, issued ultimatums, employment of police reservists, and more deployment of the drone as part of measures to restore order failed.

“With all the above strategies tried, the menace seems to be getting worse and bandits are getting bloodier and bold by the day. The government should embark on a targeted massive disarmament in the entire region and have KDF camps in Koloa, Kobot, Dira, and along the Kerio border river border,” he said.

Marakwet West MP Timothy Toroitich said the security situation in Kerio Valley has spiralled out of control turning the famed valley of fruits into a graveyard.

“The entire Kerio Valley stretch is no longer a place where a human being can live. It has become a playground for gun-wielding bandits who have not only continually thirsted for blood but left the people dejected and in abject poverty,” bewailed the MP.

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