Residents demand security operation in hotspot areas as 2 killed in fresh attack

Geoffrey Omoding

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding. He said most of animals stolen in bandit attack in Isiolo on Sunday had been recovered.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu I Natio Media Group

Local leaders and residents have lamented over the rising insecurity in Burat ward, Isiolo County, and accused the government of doing little to contain the menace that has claimed more than 20 lives in the past six months.

Two herders aged 40 and 62 were killed in a Sunday dawn attack at a grazing field in LMD by suspected bandits from neighbouring Samburu County, who stole hundreds of camels.

County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding said most of the animals had been recovered and that only 80 were remaining, with a manhunt for the criminals ongoing.

During the burial of the two men at the local Muslim cemetery, residents accused the state of failing to address their concerns, including extension of the military operation in six counties to hotspot areas in Isiolo, and increased security deployments.

The killings, they said, had been aggravated by criminals crossing over to Isiolo from neighbouring Laikipia and Samburu counties where an operation to weed out bandits behind the runaway insecurity in North Rift is under way.

Burat MCA Nicholas Lorot and Somali community leader Osman Shariff Abukar condoled with the bereaved families and asked the government to quickly contain the menace that they said had impoverished local communities that rely on pastoralism for a livelihood.

“We have several times asked the government to extend the operation to Isiolo and establish security units in hotspot areas but nothing is being done. Why is the state mum while senseless killings continue in Isiolo?” he asked.

Of great concern to residents is the manner in which criminals from Laikipia, Samburu and Marsabit continued to unleash terror with impunity, with the latest attack happening about nine kilometres outside Isiolo town.

Mr Lorot said the majority of the attacks were happening on the Isiolo side and were aimed at displacing the local communities from their ancestral land to take control of natural resources such as pastures and also benefit from upcoming mega government projects.

The MCA said the government should compensate local communities that have lost hundreds of animals in the recent past, saying many of them were struggling to fend for themselves and their families.

Mr Shariff said politicians and leaders from ‘notorious’ communities should be held responsible and coerced to provide names of criminals so that justice is served to victims.

“There are no investigations needed because we already have reports from past investigations. We only need to be honest with each other and ensure politicians allegedly benefiting from banditry are brought to book,” he said.

He also appealed for a forcible disarmament at the Isiolo/Samburu border and in Samburu East to ensure there are no guns in the wrong hands.

Besides police delayed response to attacks, the residents lamented that in most cases, criminals who raid, maim, kill and steal livestock are never arrested.

Three people, including a police reservist, were three weeks ago killed in an attack at Mlango.

Isiolo’s Somali community grazing Chairperson Abikar Mohamed said many of the criminals were crossing over to Isiolo from neighbouring counties in the guise of seeking pastures only to turn against the host communities.

“It is sad that no action is being taken while our people continue to be killed, which makes us feel like we are second-class citizens,” Mr Mohamed said.

Mr Billow Osman, a resident, accused the local elected leaders of failing to escalate the matter with President William Ruto for swift action.

“There is no political goodwill among our leaders and that is the deadlock in having a solution to this issue,” he said.

They also demanded that all illegal herders in Isiolo, some who are armed, be flushed out of the county.

Mr Omoding earlier revealed that some local politicians were being investigated over alleged links to banditry.

Without divulging details, he said the state had put in place requisite measures to address the menace and assured residents that hotspot areas such as Mlango will soon be free of bandits even as sources revealed that an operation would be carried out in the area.

The residents also asked the government to expedite establishment of buffer zones at Isiolo border points with other counties.