Gang kills policeman after officers rescue 6 girls undergoing FGM in Embobut Forest

Embobut Forest

A view of Embobut Forest in Elgeyo Marakwet County on July 13, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

A police officer was killed on Monday by a gang that attacked a rescue team that had busted a female genital mutilation rite in Embobut Forest, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The gang, suspected to be bandits, was protecting the circumcisers who were carrying out the banned rite in the forest.

Six girls who had already been circumcised were rescued and are recovering at Iten County Referral Hospital, County Police Commander Peter Mulinge told Nation.Africa.

The incident comes just a day after a Catholic priest was attacked on Saturday after he tried to stop an FGM rite in Kamoi village, where 15 girls underwent the cut.

According to the police boss, there was a confrontation between the guards of the circumcisers and the police rescue team that had been sent to the Embobut Forest to rescue dozens of girls who had allegedly been rounded up to undergo the banned rite.

Nation.Africa has established that female circumcision is taking place behind closed doors this festive season and under tight security by bandits ready to confront the police.

The team rescued six girls and took them to the hospital before the gangs protecting the circumcisers pursued them to the police post.

"There was a rescue operation for girls undergoing FGM and some of the girls had already been mutilated. The girls were many, but six were rescued, but those performing the rite were also protected by bandits, so they turned on the officers," Mr Mulinge said.

"The gang followed the officers to the police post and caught one of the officers unawares and killed him inside the police post," he said.

At the Chesoi rescue centre, the county police commander said there were at least 71 girls rescued  from FGM.

Although outlawed and criminalised under Kenyan law, FGM is still widespread in the North Rift counties, especially in Elgeyo Marawet, West Pokot and parts of Baringo counties.

Ms Viola Cherono, a rights activist from Embobut, Marakwet East, said the problem of FGM has reached alarming proportions and requires urgent intervention. 

"We have this challenge of girls undergoing FGM in this region, especially in Embobut and Endoo wards where the numbers are alarming and we have been able to rescue some girls," she said.

Regarding Monday's incident, she said officers from Tot were on a rescue operation when one of them was shot in the head by the mob that stormed the station in Maron.

According to Ms Cherono, the mob wanted to set the officer's body on fire, but the police repelled them. The slain officer's body was taken to Kapsowar Mission Hospital on Monday night.

"More than 500 girls have assembled in the forest. Last week, there were 340 girls," she said.

"Girls are being cut every day in the Endoo and Embombut wards. The people in Embombut are very wild and if you are an activist or police, they will come and get you," she said.

Mr Mulinge said a major operation against female genital mutilators was underway in the region.

"We cannot allow this to continue because it is illegal. We are carrying out an operation to flush out the circumcisers and bandits," he said.