The government yesterday escalated its fightback against bandits in Laikipia County and unveiled a raft of measures to restore sanity in the restive Laikipia West and North constituencies as the tension continued building in the region for the 11th straight day.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i led a high-level security team on a visit to the affected areas, where he announced a raft of new measures including deployment of an elite police unit to Ol Moran aimed at restoring sanity in the region.
Yesterday, Dr Matiang’i came face-to-face with the harsh reality facing residents of the conflict-prone Ol Moran area as he visited houses torched by the bandits earlier in the day.
Dr Matiang’i was dismayed by the attacks, but even before he could settle to listen to the plight of the long-suffering residents, more houses were torched in Dam Samaki village, a few kilometres from where he was meeting local leaders and residents.
The bandits staged a daring attack, torching at least seven homes, two of them belonging to National Police Reservists. However, nobody was injured in the incident as families living in the area had already fled.
“They stormed our homes on Friday morning and started setting our houses on fire while demanding that we leave. We survived by the grace of God as we fled using the back doors. I only managed to take with me my children and a few clothes,” said Ms Mary Maina, a resident of Dam Samaki.
Dr Matiang’i yesterday announced the deployment of an elite unit of the General Service Unit (GSU) to join other formations in restoring order in the affected areas.
He said the GSU unit will set up a training base in Ol Moran to enhance police presence and serve as a buffer zone between Laikipia residents and invaders from neighbouring counties.
He said a section of Kajiado camp that is being used to train police commandos will be relocated to one of the government-owned parcels of land in Ol Moran.
He also announced the creation of a new police division at Ol Moran with enough officers.
To resolve the land conflicts in the region, Dr Matiang'i said surveyors would be deployed to Laikipia to expedite the land titling process and review and recommend action on lapsed land leases.
The CS also ordered the closed learning institutions to reopen by next week.
He also announced the creation of a new administrative unit in the troubled parts of the county.
In the new changes, Ol Moran division has been hived off from Laikipia West sub-county while Ng’arua division has been hived off from Nyahururu sub-county to create the new Kirima sub-county.
CS Matiang’i appointed Mr David Kimiri to be the new Kirima sub-county administrator.
The new headquarters for the newly created Kirima sub-county will be at Ol Moran township.
“In an effort to enhance coordination of the functions of the National Government, the Interior CS has established a new administrative unit as a service delivery and coordination unit,” said Matiang'i.
The changes were contained in a gazette notice number 9219 dated September 9, 2021 and signed by Dr Matiang'i.
The new administrative unit brings to three the total number of sub-counties in the vast Laikipia West constituency.
“The government will ensure that hundreds of people displaced from their homes are returned. We will not tolerate criminals destroying private property and displacing Kenyans who rightfully own land in Laikipia. I want to warn politicians who are fuelling the tribal violence that we will deal firmly with you. We won't spare you,” said Dr Matiang’i.
He said more political leaders were being investigated for instigating the attacks ahead of the 2022 general election.
“Who said that some people should decide who should stay in the area? We are here to stay and it will not be business as usual. Politicians should stop the joke of using our people as political scores. Tutawanyorosha vilivyo. The government will not allow politicians to hurt our people to gain politically. This time round (2022) no one will move from this area,” he added.
Two additional police stations will be established in the insecurity-hit regions.
He also revealed that the government had also deployed National Police Reservists to help restore sanity in the troubled areas.
The Saturday Nation has established that the reservists had already been given guns and uniform and deployed.
According to the Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, George Natembeya, 60 have already been deployed.
“We have already rearmed 60 former police reservists and the government is targeting 100 of them,” said Mr Natembeya.
The reservists were withdrawn two years ago, but the security situation in the volatile North and parts of Rift Valley has not improved, with Laikipia bearing the biggest brunt, especially during dry seasons when herders are forced to leave Samburu, Isiolo and Baringo Counties in search of pasture.
Leaders from Laikipia led by Governor Ndiritu Muriithi, Senator John Nderitu, MPs Sarah Lekore (Laikipia North), Patrick Mariru (Laikipia West) a host of local MCAs and the Rift Valley Council Elders have been pushing the government to restore the services of the reservists in the region.
Yesterday, tension continued building up in the affected areas including Ol Moran, despite assurances from Dr Matiang’i that security officers were in control. By evening, more families were still fleeing Ol Moran and neighbouring areas for fear of more attacks. Residents fled to churches, police stations and other safer areas.
Residents interviewed described the attacks as brazen and systematic.
“The attackers normally launch attacks during the night. Despite the heavy presence of security personnel from various formations, including the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, the Rapid Deployment Unit and the General Service Unit, attacks continue to happen. They also steal livestock in the homes they attack. We will not go back despite assurances by the government,” said Mary Mbuthia, a resident of Ol Moran.
The government withdrew more than 3,000 firearms from the NPRs in the North Rift in the war on banditry in 2019 after it emerged that some of them had been misusing the firearms to engage in banditry and other criminal activities.
Dr Matiang’i yesterday assured that the government will support victims whose houses had been torched.
“The government will help the affected households with iron sheets to help them rebuild their houses. I urge those who had fled the area to come back to their homes as the government is in control. Your security is now assured,” said Dr Matiang'i.
Governor Ndiritu Muriithi demanded that the government take over the volatile Laikipia Nature Conservancy and deploy Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers to take over the management of the conservancy.
“The management of the conservancy has proved that they are not able to manage it and therefore the government should take over,” said Mr Muriithi.
In reply, Dr Matiang’i said: “Even as we are concerned with what happened here, we will sit down with leaders as a government and we will solve the Laikipia Nature Conservancy issue once and for all.”
Laikipia County will now have six sub-counties.
Dr Matiang’i was accompanied by top security chiefs among them Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya and local leaders.
Laikipia West MP, Patrick Mariru said smallholder farmers in Laikipia West have suffered for long in the hands of armed bandits.
“Laikipia Nature Conservancy is the major problem of insecurity and a total operation is the only solution that will solve the insecurity in the region. Dont carry out an operation for one week, the operation should be sustained,” he said.
His Laikipia North counterpart, Sarah Lekorere, said the motive of the sporadic attacks is to displace people from their lands.
“Crops have been destroyed by illegal herders and therefore the government should supply residents with relief food,” she said.