Isiolo politicians probed over banditry that has left 10 dead

Geoffrey Omoding

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding. He says some local politicians are being investigated over links to banditry.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu I Nation Media Group

Some Isiolo politicians are being investigated over links to banditry along the Samburu border and the troubled Mlango in Burat Ward where 10 people have been killed in a fortnight.

County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding said an investigation was under way and that arrests will be made after watertight evidence is gathered against the leaders, warning that no one will be spared regardless of their position.

“Arrests will be made should the probe link any of those leaders being investigated to the attacks,” Mr Omoding said, without giving details. 

Reports indicated that suspects on police radar could be either sympathisers or promoters of the vice.

Some chiefs around the Isiolo/Samburu border are also under the spotlight for doing little to avert the insecurity and failure to share alerts on planned attacks.

“We will soon dismiss some of them (chiefs) for not sharing information and sympathising with the criminals. We need officers who will fairly serve our people and not take sides,” he said.

This came as security sources revealed that livestock stolen from Isiolo by bandits from neighbouring Samburu County were hidden in one of the Isiolo wards with local chiefs opting to remain silent to avoid being killed by the criminals.

The administrator said efforts to contain banditry in the area were being frustrated by one of the communities that is allegedly harbouring criminals from the neighbouring county after they unleashed terror on Isiolo side.

Three people including a police reservist were last Saturday shot dead at Mlango by criminals suspected to have come from Samburu County and who stole the officer’s firearm and drove away with 350 goats.

Mr Omoding rubbished earlier reports by some politicians that the attack was retaliatory, saying no previous incident had been reported to the police.

“When the community loses livestock, they should report (to police) so that we act and help recover the animals, not unleashing terror on innocent persons,” he added.

He said the stolen goats were later recovered while being driven towards Kipsing in Oldonyiro ward.

Mr Omoding added that the criminals who vanished were being sought as recovery efforts for the stolen firearm continue.

The attacks, security sources say, have been aggravated by an ongoing joint operation by the military and police in Samburu and five other North Rift counties that have seen armed criminals run towards Isiolo.

Tension has been building up in the area following the spate of banditry attacks and robberies on non-local teachers working in Oldonyiro along LMD-Mlango-Oldonyiro road with sources saying more than 10 teachers had been affected.

Competition over resources, expansionist agenda and political intrigues are among the contributors to conflicts among pastoralists in Isiolo and neighbouring counties.

During the burial ceremony of the slain reservist and two herders at Taqwa cemetery, local leaders, elders and residents asked the government to stop empty promises and walk the talk on tackling the menace.

Mr Osman Shariff Abukar asked President William Ruto to ruthlessly deal with the criminals who, he said, continue to impoverish local communities by threatening pastoralism and robbing many families of their loved ones.

“For how long will we cry for justice? The government must act fast and stop the senseless killings of our people by criminals from neighbouring counties,” Mr Shariff said.

Somali Council of Elders Secretary General Idle Hassan and Ms Amina Noor asked the State to establish a buffer zone on the Isiolo/Samburu border to prevent the movement of criminals into the county.

“The criminals are slowly displacing local communities in their expansionist agenda and must be stopped,” Mr Idle warned.

Former Burat MCA Hassan Yarrow said the government should extend the dusk-to-dawn curfew in Samburu County to Isiolo to help flush out the criminals from the affected areas.

“He (Ruto) should extend the military operation to Isiolo to deal with criminals who are crossing over to our side from neighbouring counties. Picking bodies of people shot dead for burial regularly has been the norm and it is time it stops,” Mr Yarrow said.

They hit out at the security team over the failure to arrest criminals who perpetrated the attacks with Mr Omoding saying the government had changed tact and would ruthlessly deal with the bandits.

Animals stolen

“Nearly 100 per cent of animals stolen from other counties and driven to Isiolo are recovered but the case is different when our people lose their livestock to criminals in other counties,” Mr Omoding said, opening the lid on an existing disconnect between security teams in Isiolo and Samburu East.

Besides the expected establishment of a General Service Unit (GSU) camp in Mlango, a communication mast will be erected to boost reporting of crime incidents according to the administrator.

Security patrols have been intensified in Mlango and neighbouring areas where Mr Omoding said aerial and ground surveillance was also carried out.

Without sharing details, he said measures had been developed to tackle cattle rustling and banditry and assured that soon, the area will be free of bandits.

“Our people and especially leaders should not make noise when we deal with criminals. We will eliminate them and you will soon see it yourselves. We will handle criminals individually and no community will be targeted unless it is benefiting from the crime,” he maintained.

Illegal herders from neighbouring Marsabit and Samburu counties who have also been blamed for the rising attacks have been ordered to leave or be forcefully flushed out for sneaking into the county in the guise of seeking pastures only to unleash terror on residents.

“The pastures in Mlango, which is a small area, are not enough for local communities. The criminals should be forcefully evicted,” Mr Yarrow appealed.


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