State in renewed push to kick illegal armed herders out of Isiolo

A herder watches over his camels in Isiolo

A herder watches over his camels as they take water from a shallow well in Kambi Garba on April 13, 2022. The government has for the second time in less than a month announced an operation to eject from Isiolo armed illegal herders.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu | Nation Media Group

The government has for the second time in less than a month announced an operation to eject from Isiolo armed illegal herders who have been blamed for bandit attacks that have claimed over 60 lives since January.

The previous security operation that started on March 21 did not achieve the anticipated results. It faced setbacks, amid claims of sabotage by some top security officials and collusion between the criminals and some locals.

A big number of herders from neighbouring counties who had been ejected took advantage of the shortcomings to sneak back into the county, posing new security threats.

Security officials were conspicuously missing at the start of the last operation when they were expected to present their officers for the task, leaving it to the General Service Unit, the Rapid Deployment Unit and national government administrators.

Nearly three weeks later and despite reassurances about security, armed bandits suspected to have come from Samburu gunned down nine people and injured four others in Murulem and Harr Moroti, Burat ward.

Terror in broad daylight

The attack elicited mixed reactions from the public and some leaders, who accused the government of inability to deal with bandits unleashing terror in broad daylight, with some threatening to arm and defend themselves.

Others wondered how effective the operation was, saying that a timely response to the recent attack could have prevented some of the deaths considering that the criminals struck thrice between 10am and 2pm.

But the police have established that some people from one of the communities living along the Isiolo-Samburu border were aiding the armed illegal herders to return to Isiolo.

Stealing livestock

The herders, residents say, come into the county ostensibly in search of pasture and water, only to raid homes and mercilessly kill and steal livestock from host communities.

Samburu community elders in Isiolo have been put on notice after it was established that some locals were hosting illegal herders. They have been ordered to present the names of the criminals involved in last week’s attack.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding last Tuesday announced a new operation, saying enough police officers had been mobilised to eject the remaining herders and those who had sneaked back.

The ongoing operation targets the insecurity-prone areas of Burat, Attan, Kom, Daaba and Shaba and Buffalo Springs National Reserve whose residents fled following the spate of recent attacks.

“We are committed to ejecting all the illegal herders including those who returned assisted by some of the locals even if it means using force,” Mr Omoding said, assuring residents that the closed Archers Post-Losesia-Kom and Gotu roads would reopen.

Sympathisers warned

He said sympathisers from Isiolo’s Samburu community will be held responsible for any crime in their areas, including attacks and livestock thefts.

He asked Samburu morans to abandon the gun and embrace the pen, saying education is among the ways to deal with the outdated practice of cattle rustling.

While directing chiefs to activate grazing committees in their locations, Mr Omoding asked residents who had fled their homes to return, assuring them that they and their properties will be secure.

Meanwhile, residents and leaders have asked the government to arm National Police Reservists so as to enhance security.

When Isiolo North MP aspirant Osman Shariff Abukar visited four victims of the Burat attack who are nursing gunshot wounds at Isiolo Referral Hospital, he warned that more lives would be lost as the criminals are unleashing terror with impunity.

“Grazing committees should be activated and security intensified across the county to prevent more deaths and loss of livestock to banditry attacks,” Mr Abukar said.


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