Pressure mounts to have military take charge of bandit war in the North
What you need to know:
- Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren claimed security agencies are losing the fight to the bandits
- Mochongoi MCA Kipruto Kimosop said there are fears that some security officers are sabotaging the operation by collaborating with the bandits
- In Turkana, PSV operators and motorists want the military to shift camp to the dreaded KWS area near Kapetogole and Kadeng'oi kraals inhabited by bandits who shoot, rob and kill motorists and passengers
- They threaten to organise mass protests between Lokichar and Kainuk if this doesnt happen with a week
President William Ruto is under pressure to allow the military to take charge of the ongoing security operation in the North Rift, following sustained attacks by bandits.
In Turkana, PSV operators and motorists want the military, within a week, to shift camp to the dreaded KWS area near Kapetogole and Kadeng'oi kraals inhabited by Pokot bandits who shoot, rob and kill motorists and passengers on the Kitale-Lodwar road, failure to which they threaten to organise mass protests between Lokichar and Kainuk.
Political leaders and villagers in Baringo County claim that bandits have become hardened, staging more attacks in the border villages mapped out for the disarmament and the response by the security teams assigned to tackle them was discouraging.
Baringo Senator William Cheptumo said continued attacks by bandits was an indication that security forces assigned the task are unable to tame the insecurity menace.
“With the new turn of events, we appeal to the President to allow the military to take charge of the operation. We are ready as parliamentarians to pass any necessary legislation to speed up the process,” said Mr Cheptumo.
Mogotio MP Reuben Kiborek said a special department should be set up within the Ministry of Interior to oversee issues affecting the disturbed Kerio Valley to find a lasting solution to the perennial bandit menace.
Speaking in Marigat, Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren claimed security agencies are losing the fight to the bandits, hence the need to remedy the situation urgently.
“As we speak, several schools have been closed, more people are fleeing volatile villages because criminals are freely roaming the areas. Bandits are becoming more emboldened and for sure, the police are losing this fight and they should swallow the humble pie and surrender the operation to the military to take charge,” said Mr Kamuren.
Mochongoi MCA Kipruto Kimosop said there are fears that some security officers are sabotaging the operation by collaborating with the bandits.
“There is no operation going on in the North Rift and we want the whole world to hear this,” he said.
“What is going on are just public relations stunts to hoodwink locals. We wonder why those mandated to carry out the exercise are sabotaging the President’s order,” said Mr Kimosop.
More than 15 attacks have been carried out by raiders in the porous border villages in Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties, leaving three people dead and five others nursing gunshot injuries. Hundreds of livestock have been stolen in the attacks.
KDF camp redeployment
In Turkana County, PSV drivers have called for the redeployment of KDF soldiers based at Loyapat in Turkana South sub county to the dreaded KWS area near Kapetogole and Kadeng'oi kraals inhabited by bandits.
They said that the redeployment will assure them of swift response whenever attacks occur and force bandits out of the Kraals.
Through their Turkana County Drivers and Transport Association (Tucodta), they said that bandits continue to unleash terror on motorists and passengers on the Kitale - Lodwar road where they shoot, rob and kill at will between Kainuk and Kalemngorok.
"The section is still the most dangerous for motorists and drivers despite the ongoing security operation by police officers and KDF soldiers. That is where bandits killed four and injured seven others on February 10 before and later torching four vehicles that were being used by the security officers to conduct security patrols along the highway that connects Kenya and South Sudan," the association Chairman Ronald Emuria said.
He said that the current deployment of various police units and soldiers has exposed innocent road users to the fatal spillover effect of the ongoing security operation.
"If the bandits are unsuccessful with their mission to raid border villages, repulsed by security officers, or stolen livestock are recovered, they unleash their wrath on road users. We now want KDF soldiers with their sophisticated weapons and aircraft to establish a base at the KWS area if they have intentions of dealing with unruly bandits," Mr Emuria said.
In less than two months, he said, they have recorded at least five attacks where drivers and passengers have either been shot dead or injured.
On February 2, a Turkrift Shuttle PSV was attacked while heading to Lodwar from Eldoret and a passenger was injured. Two days later, bandits again attacked a PSV vehicle from Turkrift Shuttle around South Turkana National Reserve, injuring a male passenger.
Bandits again attacked a PSV from Turkrift Shuttle near Kaakong centre on February 10, shooting dead a 23-year-old man and injuring a woman. On March 5, occupants of two vehicles were robbed of their valuables and money by bandits at the KWS and Kalemngorok stretch on the Lodwar-Kitale road, before the attackers fled on foot.
Turkana County Police Commander Samwel Ndanyi confirmed the latest highway bandit attack that occurred on March 22 evening, where a public service vehicle from Quick Shuttle Sacco heading to Kitale from Lodwar was attacked by about 10 bandits near Kaakong Trading Centre.
"One of the passengers, a 30-year-old Jackline Ekai, was killed, while the driver David Wekesa and another passenger 14-year-old Diana Akila, were injured after being shot in the neck and the left leg respectively. The bandits stole all the valuables," Mr Ndanyi said.
Disguised as herders
Mr Mathew Kipsang, a driver at Turkrift Shuttle said the bandits always disguise themselves as herders before attacking.
Ms Alice Nakawa, a driver and local leader said that with redeployment, KDF soldiers will easily weed out bandits and track them to their hideouts where they must be killed for their militia-like atrocities.
"If security along the highway won't be beefed up. We will in a week mobilise all drivers in Turkana County for a protest between Lokichar and Kainuk demanding improved safety and security," Ms Nakawa said.
The county police boss, however, assured motorists and passengers of their security, saying that since last week, a multi-agency security team had stepped up surveillance along the road through security escorts and patrols.
Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma said the multi-agency security team was targeting civilians with illegal firearms.
"I want to issue a warning to civilians against brandishing illegal firearms as the multi-agency team was currently dealing with such civilians forcefully and decisively," Mr Ouma said.
Turkana South MP John Namoit said that as a representative of the people of an area identified as dangerous and disturbed, sustained attacks were the result of a lack of a coordinated security operation.
"I can confirm without any doubt that there is no operation taking place. KDF officers are based in Loyapat, Lobokat ward, and only deal with bandits who have the intention of overrunning a KDF camp because they are situated on a bandit escape route. I want to ask Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki how long should we wait for a well-coordinated and successful security operation?" Dr Namoit said.
He said that a kraal of heavily armed bandits that had settled at Kadeng'oi had already fled to the hills of Kaelongol where there are no roads, with others going to Ombolion and Kasses to integrate with their relatives from the Pokot community after displacing Turkana residents.