Tension is high in Kobot village in Kinyach, Kerio Valley, after a primary school teacher was killed in a fresh attack by bandits on Sunday afternoon.
The armed attackers suspected to be from neighbouring Marakwet East made away with more than 125 cows.
Kemboi Simotwo, 26, a teacher at Kinyach Primary School, was herding livestock belonging to six families with some children when they were ambushed by the gun-wielding criminals. The assailants shot at him before driving away the cows.
The death of the teacher brings to 31 the number of people killed since the beginning of the year, with scores of others nursing gunshot injuries.
The incident happened barely five days after three people were killed in the same sub-county, Baringo North, in separate attacks by bandits.
Locals told the Nation the criminals numbered more than 50 and had divided themselves into teams before the attack, in a strategy to avoid being repulsed. They drove the herd towards Tot in neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Mr Reuben Ruto, a resident, recalled that gunshots pierced the air for hours when the raiders surrounded the grazing field. Locals later found the body of the teacher riddled with tens of bullets.
“The children who were herding the animals with the teacher were harassed by the bandits, who had taken them hostage before directing them to run away,” said Mr Ruto.
“It is sad that we have lost another life to banditry, this time orchestrated by bandits from the neighbouring Marakwet community. We are perturbed by the incident because we have lived for decades as good neighbours,” he said.
He claimed the tutor’s body was sprayed with more than 20 bullets.
Confirming the incident, Baringo County Police Commander Adamson Bungei said security officers responded to the attack but did not recover the stolen livestock.
“Officers responded to repulse the bandits but they were challenged by the gun-wielding criminals, who even threw a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), an indication that they had sophisticated weapons. It is unfortunate that one person was killed in the attack that saw more than 125 cows driven away,” said Mr Bungei.
But he said they were working with elders and local leaders from the neighbouring county to ensure the stolen livestock are returned as they pursue the criminals.
The efforts of locals to recover the stolen livestock were hampered by lack of cooperation from local leaders in the neighbouring community.
A resident, who sought anonymity for fear of victimization, accused security officers from the neighbouring county of failing to pursue the attackers though they had been given information about the raid.
“We tried our best to contact the most senior security officer in Elgeyo Marakwet County to at least recover the hundreds of livestock that were being leisurely driven along the road by the gun-wielding criminals, passing several police camps but as usual, they didn’t assist either,” the aggrieved local said.
“We received the body of the deceased yesterday (Sunday) evening and it was riddled with more than 24 bullets. We fail to understand what was the motive behind such a bizarre act?”
Last week's attack
The first incident happened at 10am on Wednesday when armed attackers from neighbouring Tiaty sub-county struck Ng’aratuko village in Baringo North, shot at herders indiscriminately before driving away hundreds of livestock.
According to residents, some of them with the help of police reservists pursued a stolen vehicle that had been driven towards Kositei but were ambushed and attacked by the raiders, injuring a herder identified as Chongwo Francis.
The police commander said that while officers were on a patrol in the area, they were told about the body of one of the locals who had gone missing while pursuing the stolen livestock.
The body, the commander stated, was being held by the bandits, who were waiting to attack anyone who would come to collect it.
“The raid happened on Wednesday afternoon and unfortunately, one of the locals who had been reported missing after pursuing the stolen livestock was found dead, with his body riddled with bullets. Another sustained serious gunshot injuries and was taken to Baringo County Referral Hospital, where he is receiving treatment,” said Mr Bungei.
In a separate incident, the county police boss said another body with gunshot wounds was found on Monday morning on the side of a road at Chepilat, on the border of Baringo North and Tiaty sub-counties. It was suspected to belong to one of the bandits.
Government on the spot
Former Governor Benjamin Cheboi, the UDA party nominee for the top county seat, condemned the spate of attacks and called on the government to up its game in restoring order in the troubled Kerio Valley.
He urged local leaders and administrators to work together to recover the stolen livestock so that the animosity between the two communities does not escalate.
“The national government should swiftly restore order in Kerio Valley to avert retaliation attacks because if such conflicts escalate, they would be hard to manage. Leaders and administrators from the community where the stolen livestock were driven to should be sincere and assist in the recovery for peace to prevail,” said Mr Cheboi.