What you need to know:
- The government has revived the National Police Reservists (NPR) in Samburu, recruiting more than 600 new police reservists since December 2022.
- In Baragoi, the government deployed the Special Operations Group (SOG), a crack military unit that employed state-of-the-art technology to combat banditry.
Samuel Lekamparish, a resident of Nolkera, stands pensively near his home as he gazes at the southern horizon of the Longewan Valley in Samburu West.
His once tranquil village has become a battleground between bandits and security forces, with the sound of bullets a daily occurrence.
"Everything has changed completely, and my family is shattered,” says Lekamparish, reflecting on the events of the last one year.
He remembers the fateful night, when a group of bandits descended on his home, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
The bandits drove away nearly 83 heads of cattle down the Pura Valley in the region.
His neighbour's son, Andrew Kamain, was killed the following day, throwing the entire village into devastation.
"It seems they launched twin attacks and drove away a huge number of livestock. I am living in abject poverty and nobody is here to help me," he says.
According to Lekamparish, the events happened few kilometres from where the military operations camp is located in Nolkera.
What was once a peaceful community now bears the scars of frequent attacks by bandits.
The situation in Samburu County has been dire, prompting the government to announce an intensive security operation a year ago to tackle banditry.
The operation extended to five counties marked as 'dangerous and disturbed,' to curb the activities of hard-core bandits.
Some of the bandit-prone zones include Tandare Valley and Mkogodo forest in Baringo County, Kamwenje, Losos, and Kiape Hills in Laikipia, Ltungai Longewan, Lolmolok, Pura Valley, Suguta, Malaso from Marti to Ltungai in Samburu County, Nadome and Kamur in Turkana, and Turkwel escarpments in West Pokot County.
However, as the year unfolds, the Kenya Kwanza administration finds itself grappling with a mixed bag of success and failures in its fight against defiant gunmen who continue to wreak havoc in the volatile region.
Despite the intensified security operations, the bandits have escalated terror in troubled Samburu West, often in full view of police and military personnel.
Even after the deployment of military-backed offensives, the region has witnessed more than 50 deaths since February last year.
The latest incident involves the brutal murder of Emmanuel Leparteleg, who was killed by armed bandits while looking after his herd of cattle in Lkeek Sapuki area.
Security forces, including police officers and military personnel, continue facing daunting challenges as they confront gunmen who find refuge in the difficult terrains of Samburu West.
The raiders take cover in thick bushes and caves, making it challenging for law enforcement to pursue them effectively.
The rocky hills, broken volcanic rocks, thorny scrubs, and cacti create a challenging environment for security operations.
In response to these challenges, the government revived the National Police Reservists (NPR) in Samburu, recruiting more than 600 new police reservists since December 2022.
The NPRs, being natives of the region, have played a crucial role in acting as a quick response force whenever the bandits strike.
With their familiarity with the rugged terrain, they work closely with other security forces to restore sanity in the hard-hit areas.
In Baragoi, the government deployed the Special Operations Group (SOG), a crack military unit that employed state-of-the-art technology to combat banditry.
The SOG used high-tech surveillance, including special drones with night vision cameras, to monitor bandits' activities.
This technology helped security forces trace and locate bandits, even in caves and gorges.
Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) were used to confront armed bandits, providing an all-terrain capability with an automatic 360-degree rotation shooting design.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki recently said the ongoing security operation, known as 'Operation Maliza Uhalifu,' has been successful despite reports of violent bandit attacks in the region.
He acknowledged the challenges but noted that significant strides had been made in suppressing violent bandit activities in key hideouts.
"Banditry in most of Samburu County has been contained with huge success registered in Baragoi, a notorious hotbed of crime," said Kindiki.
The government is continuously monitoring the successes and challenges of the ongoing security operation across all troubled counties in the region.
The plan is to address gaps for a sustained programme aimed at eradicating the terror of armed cattle rustlers.
The CS also revealed that the government is seeking to employ a "comprehensive" multi-agency strategy to suppress armed bandits in the North Rift region.
The security operation will also be extended to four more counties in the upper North eastern region this year.
He emphasized the need for a comprehensive approach to tackle issues such as cattle rustling, highway robbery, and human trafficking.
"Incessant security threats posed by livestock rustlers, highway robbers, and traffickers of humans and narcotics require a comprehensive multi-agency eradication strategy," said Kindiki.
The ongoing efforts involve strategy meetings with senior security managers in the North Rift and Upper North Eastern regions.
These meetings aim to lay the groundwork for pacifying disturbed areas in Marsabit, Isiolo, Meru North, Baringo, Samburu, and Turkana Counties.
"The criminals have taken advantage of rough terrain, poor infrastructure and social vulnerabilities to stage attacks against residents of some parts of Northern Rift Valley and Upper Eastern Regions," Kindiki stated.
"This is a culture that the government is determined to suppress this year."
Earlier, the government had mapped dangerous gorges, ravines, escarpments, and hills in Baringo, Samburu, Laikipia, West Pokot, and Turkana counties where bandits operate.
While the challenges persist, the government's strategy involves continuous assessments, aiming for a sustained program to eliminate the long-standing issue of armed banditry in the region.
The security operation represents a comprehensive approach involving various agencies to address the root causes of insecurity and bring lasting stability to the affected areas.
Residents now only remain hopeful the region will experience lasting peace and security, allowing them to rebuild their lives and communities free from the constant threat of armed banditry.