Leaders, residents lament surge in bandit attacks as 11 killed

Mohamed Kuti

Isiolo Governor Mohamed Kuti who has faulted security agencies for failure to prevent continued killings of Isiolo people by armed militia.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

Isiolo leaders and residents have complained about rising bandit attacks that have claimed 11 lives in the past two days, accusing the government of doing little to contain the situation.

Some eight people, five from Wajir, had been killed by Thursday morning in clashes at Lakole, Merti, involving two communities on the Isiolo-Wajir border.

The fighting arose after two men on motorbikes were shot dead by suspected bandits from Wajir West on Monday night.

The bodies of the two, who were heading towards Kom, were found lying on the roadside at around 10pm with gunshot wounds, prompting a retaliatory attack that saw six others killed and one seriously injured.

Two men grazing at Attan, Ngaremara, in the Buffalo Springs National Reserve were gunned down Wednesday evening by bandits suspected to have come from Samburu County before the driver of a sand lorry was killed during the wee hours of Thursday morning near Archers Post.

Police reports indicate that the Merti attack was aimed at displacing communities from their land.

“Eight people have been killed and one was injured in the morning. The attacks are for expansionist reasons and not resources,” Merti Deputy County Commissioner Michael Kione told Nation.Africa.

He said security officers had been deployed to the area to quell the violence.

Protesting the killings, Turkana residents, led by their elders, blamed illegal herders for the insecurity and appealed to the government to eject them for peace to prevail.

They said herders from Laikipia, Samburu and Baringo counties forcefully invaded their land and occupied grazing areas without consent from the local grazing committees.

The community’s grazing committee chair Samuel Lokoro said it was unfortunate that after hosting herders from other counties, they were now unleashing terror on their people and stealing livestock from them.

He expressed fears that the situation could worsen in the coming months if the herders are not evicted.

“They have come with thousands of animals to graze on our side but are now attacking us while they steal our livestock. The government must send them away for the peace of our people,” Pastor Lokoro said, adding that 23 people had been killed in the last two months.

Turkana Council of Elders chair Albino Ekitela said the government should expel the herders to avert more attacks in which he said many residents had been killed and maimed and their properties destroyed.

“The government should ensure our people and their properties are safe so that they can continue with their economic activities uninterrupted,” he said.

An influx of herders has also been reported in Chari, spreading fears that the migration could prompt resource-based conflicts even as some travellers reported being harassed by armed herders in Gotu and Biliqo.

They said loss of animals to bandits continued to threaten pastoralism, their economic mainstay, turning many people into beggars.

Competition for water and pasture in the region, land disputes and political intrigues are some of the major factors in the conflicts between pastoralists in Isiolo and their neighbours in Garissa, Wajir, Marsabit, Samburu, Laikipia and Meru counties.

Activist Joseph Kalapata, a relative of one of the men shot dead in Ngaremara, blamed the government for what he said was its failure to stop the killings of innocent people and claiming that some counties are favoured against others.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding visited the area on Thursday and met local elders to push for peaceful coexistence between communities in Isiolo and those in neighbouring counties.

A police officer attached to the Loruko police post was shot dead a month ago and two rifles loaded with 40 rounds of ammunition were stolen when armed bandits attacked the station near the Isiolo-Samburu border.

The attackers, whose number was unknown, were suspected to be Samburu morans. They struck the station when only two of its nine officers were present. One of the rifles was later recovered.

Residents are worried about the attackers’ impunity, raising concerns about the ability of security organs to deal with lawlessness.

Hundreds of residents have fled their homes following recent attacks, leaving several towns deserted and boreholes vandalised.

While blaming the attacks on the proliferation of illegal firearms, Mr Omoding ordered those with the weapons to hand them over to the authorities, warning that they would be forcefully disarmed.

“I am appealing to our people to avoid revenge but volunteer information to police for legal action. We have managed to quell the situation (in Merti) and our officers are still on the ground,” Mr Omoding told the Nation.

Politician James Lowasa and Somali youth chair Mohammud Ahmed said they were willing to share resources with their neighbours but they must abide by the regulations issued by local peace and grazing committees.

“Action must be taken against the illegal herders over the killing of our people,” Dr Lowasa said.

Some leaders, including Education ex-CAS Mumina Bonaya and former Isiolo South MP Abdullahi Banticha, visited the affected families on Thursday.

Others were former Governor Godana Doyo, Isiolo North MP Hassan Odha, Woman Rep Rehema Jaldesa and Senate hopeful Nuh Mohammed Ibrahim.

Ms Bonaya said some local schools had been closed and several families displaced due to insecurity and called for urgent measures to ensure peace and tranquillity prevail.

“There is a need for a clear resource-sharing arrangement for pastoralists because climate change affects everyone,” she said while condoling with the bereaved families.

Mr Banticha asked the government to expedite the deployment of security officers following the gazetting of Cherab sub-county, saying it will help restore peace on the Isiolo-Wajir border.

During the opening of a Kanu office in Isiolo, some leaders condemned the incident and asked the State to deploy more officers to the affected areas.

Led by Deputy Governor Abdi Issa, former Isiolo North MP Joseph Samal and Isiolo Kanu chair Nassir Abdikadir Mohammed, they stressed the need for peaceful coexistence.

Mr Samal said leaders and elders from Samburu, Isiolo and Wajir should sit down and find a lasting solution to the insecurity, which he said threatened development in the region.

“We should all preach peace because it is a crucial ingredient of development. We appeal to security organs to quickly contain the situation,” he said.

The leaders asked the government to rearm National Police Reservists to enhance security and prevent constant attacks especially in border areas.

Isiolo Parents Association chair Ismael Galma expressed fears that some students might not sit their national examinations that start next week if the situation is not contained.

“Several schools remain closed. The government should move with speed because the insecurity will affect the national exams and translate to poor results,” he said.

Apart from the scramble to control resources and the proliferation of illegal firearms, attacks are also instigated by politicians to safeguard their electoral base.

The county commissioner revealed that police were investigating cases of political incitement, adding that no one will be spared.

“We suspect some of the politicians are behind the attacks and are investigating,” Mr Omoding said.

Governor Mohamed Kuti asked the security team to escalate operations in affected areas and other hotspots. “I vouch for holistic peace dialogue from both counties to resolve the drivers of conflicts along the borders,” he said in a March 2 press release.

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