Why Isiolo killings have persisted

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding. He said the county needs support from neighbouring counties to nab bandits.

Photo credit: Waweru Wairimu I Nation Media Group

A disconnect between security teams in Isiolo and neighbouring Samburu is hampering the government’s efforts to deal with lawlessness in the region, the Nation has learnt.

Despite continued assurances by the security team that adequate measures were in place to avert attacks, criminals keep unleashing terror with impunity, subjecting families to immense suffering.

Eleven people have been killed in the last 10 days, with the latest attack on Monday at Manyatta Zebra, about 25km from Isiolo town, claiming the lives of a middle-aged man, Emuria Lonyangamue, and his herder, Daniel Loibuku, with the bandits making away with 400 goats and 50 cows.

Bandits from neighbouring counties raid a village, watering point or grazing field, kill, maim and steal from their neighbours before retreating to their counties.

Competition over resources, an expansionist agenda and political intrigues are some of the causes of the attacks.

To ensure they are not arrested before crossing over, the bandits mostly carry out attacks late in the night to have enough time to drive the stolen animals to their counties before the incidents are reported the following morning.

Poor telecommunications network coverage, especially in remote areas, hampers reporting, forcing residents to walk kilometres to higher ground to share alerts with police.

While ideally security teams from both counties should collaborate to bring the culprits to book, it hardly happens, with those from the affected counties mostly forced to stop pursuing the attackers due to lack of support from their neighbours.

The security team in Isiolo has complained about what they say is lack of goodwill and cooperation from their Samburu counterparts to help catch the criminals.

In past attacks, including in April at Murulem and Harr Moroti in Burat where nine herders were gunned down by bandits suspected to have come from Samburu, none of the criminals was arrested.

Turkana residents in Ngaremara and local leaders recently complained that security organs treated Samburu residents leniently.

“They have been stealing from us and killing our people but surprisingly, operations are done on the Isiolo side, leaving them out. This is unfair,” Mr Joseph Edong’a said.

While an ongoing operation to flush out criminals from Kom in Chari ward is in its second month, raiders from Samburu and Laisamis, Marsabit, continue to unleash terror.

Four people, including a mother and her two children aged one and 10, were shot dead last Saturday in an attack in Dogogicha, a week after five others were killed in separate attacks in Bulle and Kom Durte with the Kom and Dogogicha attacks perpetrated by criminals from Samburu.

Chari MCA Ali Dima demanded that an operation like the one in Kom be undertaken in Samburu and Laisamis to weed out the criminals who continue to terrorise Isiolo residents.

“We feel the operation is not useful if it cannot address the insecurity issue”.

He said most of the attacks were on the Isiolo side, dozens of kilometres from the border, ruling out any boundary disputes.

A senior security official admitted that there was sabotage from the security team in Samburu, which he said undermined their work.

“While there are no administrative boundaries, our Samburu counterparts have been non-compliant in tracking criminals.

They sometimes snub security meetings between teams from Isiolo and Samburu East,” the officer, who did not want to be named, told the Nation.

The officer said a partnership between the Meru and Isiolo security teams led to the arrest of five suspects involved in the April 19 attack in Ntulili in which five people, including a police officer, were killed.

Security personnel said the Ntulili attack was retaliatory following the previous week’s killing of more than 10 camels at Kibiru.

Two of the suspects were arrested on the Isiolo side and the rest in Meru.

“We are, however, still trying to push for improved coordination between us and other counties for speedy arrest of criminals and recovery of stolen animals,” he added.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding told the Nation on Monday that security personnel were not getting ‘maximum’ support from their Samburu counterparts in handling bandit attacks, blaming the laxity on the neighbouring side for the continued attacks.

“We expeditiously handle cases of criminals on our side and assist our neighbours to nab criminals perpetrating violence in their county. This is mostly never reciprocated by our neighbours,” Mr Omoding said.

Responding to complaints about the spate of attacks, Mr Omoding said the security team was determined to ensure the criminals pay heavily for the cold-blooded murders.

He announced plans by the State to establish General Service Unit camps in Mlango and Attan in Burat and Ngaremara, respectively, to curb the attacks.

“We are also pushing to have special police units deployed along our borders like we did with Meru for lasting peace between the counties,” he said.

But lack of support services such as infrastructure and water in the areas could delay the establishment of the camps.

“We would have already permanently deployed officers to the areas but there are no structures (houses) and amenities,” the administrator noted.

He appealed to residents to live in hamlets for easier reporting, saying the criminals were targeting isolated homes.

Mr Omoding said National Police Reservists would be provided with police vehicles and offered to support them for patrols at night when a majority of the criminals raid villages.

Residents and leaders have expressed fears the county could turn into a battlefield if adequate preventive measures to address insecurity are not developed quickly.

“With the courage the criminals have shown in the recent attack, we fear the killings could spill over to Isiolo town and disrupt major operations. We are being attacked from all corners and something must be done,” said Mr Meshack Kirimi, a sales and marketing officer.

Isiolo North MP aspirant Mwenda Thuranira (PNU) questioned why the government was not using its intelligence reports to arrest the culprits before they strike.

“The government has enough machinery to deal with the menace and prevent loss of lives and properties,” he said.