What you need to know:
- MPs have tasked the Interior and Defence ministries to now seek parliamentary approval to allow the KDF to take full charge of the ongoing security operation
- According to the MPs, the heavy security presence has served no purpose, because the soldiers are being commanded by police, who have proved no match for the bandits
- Residents and leaders in both Turkana and Baringo counties reported witnessing a military bombardment of areas believed to be the bandits' hideouts on Friday and Saturday
Two Turkana county employees escaped death by a whisker on Sunday after bandits ambushed a vehicle they were traveling in and sprayed it with bullets at the dreaded KWS-Kaakong’ stretch on the Kitale-Lodwar road.
Mr Peter Lochama and Ms Getrude Kosgei were heading to Lodwar town from Eldoret when the armed bandits emerged from the thicket and fired at them.
It happened as residents and leaders in both Turkana and Baringo counties reported witnessing a military bombardment of areas believed to be the bandits' hideouts.
Residents of both counties reported spotting two military combat choppers hovering over the hotspots on Friday and Saturday. The situation has caused tension in the areas.
“We ducked beneath the dashboard as I attempted to steer the vehicle. The vehicle veered off the road and we landed in the bush. I attempted to steer it further away from the bandits as they continued firing at us. Luckily none of us was hurt,” recalled Mr Locham, who was driving.
The vehicle caught stuck, forcing them to take get out and flee to safety.
“We headed back and found our way to the highway. The bandits had stopped firing at us. We stopped a PSV vehicle that was headed to the scene and we asked them to drive back to Kainuk, and they allowed us into the vehicle,” he narrated.
Following the incident, motorists and passengers on the Lodwar-Kitale road are now being escorted by Kenya Defence Forces soldiers and police officers.
The attack happened a day after bandits carried out retaliatory attacks at Kalemng’orok in Turkana South Sub-County, hours after residents reported the military bombing of the criminals’ hideouts in the region.
On Sunday night, Kaakong Primary School in Turkana South was closed after bandits invaded it and vandalised buildings and equipment, including the water tank. Learners and teachers have kept away.
And on Monday, suspected armed bandits ambushed motorists at Naoyaregae bridge in Kaputi on the Kitale- Lodwar highway, with some motorists getting stranded in nearby villages where they sought refuge.
Kaakong primary school headteacher Edaan’ Simon told Nation.Africa that the tension that began building up on Friday remained high.
Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma confirmed the presence of two military helicopters and said they were part of a targeted security operation to flush out bandits in the area.
"The choppers came there to deal with bandits after they were keenly monitored in normal surveillance activities," Mr Ouma said.
In Baringo county, bandits carried out a daytime retaliatory attack in the volatile Seretion village in Mochongoi ward, Baringo South on Sunday, injuring a police reservist and making away with more than 200 head of cattle.
The attack was carried out after the joint military-police teams deployed to carry out a disarmament in the area bombed the dreaded Korkoron and Tandar Hills on Friday morning in a bid to smoke out the bandits. The hills are among the bandits’ hideouts in the region.
Military should take full charge
It is based on these, among other developments, that North Rift MPs want the military to fully take charge of the security operation to smoke out bandits in the troubled and dangerous areas in the region, saying the current arrangement was not bearing fruit.
The MPs have tasked the Interior and Defence ministries to now seek parliamentary approval to allow the KDF to take full charge of the ongoing security operation led by police in the banditry-prone region, saying attacks continue despite security presence.
According to the MPs, the heavy security presence has served no purpose, because the soldiers are being commanded by police, who have proved no match for the bandits.
“We want military deployment under Article 241(3) of the Constitution. We cannot deploy KDF to the region only to be told they are under police. This is a very unfortunate statement from the government since the bandits are reigning supreme in the region,” said Marakwet West MP Timothy Toroitich.
The legislators spoke in Keiyo South, Elgeyo Marakwet on Sunday.
“The deployment of KDF must be real and not cosmetic. We are yet to see any fruits of the deployment,” Mr Toroitich said, noting that lives must be protected.
The Constitution allows the deployment of KDF to restore peace in any part of the country affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the National Assembly.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Defense counterpart Aden Duale last Thursday defended the deployment of KDF troops to the troubled region without prior approval by MPs.
The two said the military was dispatched to back up the National Police Service, adding that the operation was under the command of the Inspector General of Police Inspector General Japhet Koome.
“We will come back to Parliament for approval of the fully-fledged deployment of KDF if we feel the need. For now, we are cooperating with the National Police Service,” said the Defence CS when he appeared before the joint parliamentary committee.
Prof Kindiki told the joint committee the military was in the operation to support the police in ground and aerial surveillance.
Kesses MP Julius Rutto said it did not make sense to dispatch KDF troops to be commanded by the police.
“The military is more trained than the police with the wherewithal to fight any form of violent extremism. But when the CS said the military is under the police, it simply says they are taking instructions from the police in the entire operation. It should be the other way round since we need a different strategy to approach the insecurity menace through full deployment of KDF,” he said.
Mr Rutto said President William Ruto should personally take charge of the issue and instruct the CSs to seek parliamentary approval to enable KDF to take full charge.
Keiyo North MP Adams Kipsanai said Kenyans are tired of the banditry menace and the government using the same strategy but expecting different results.
“As MPs from this region, we know where the shoe pinches and we are ready to support the government to end banditry. Let the government seek full military deployment through Parliament and we shall approval immediately,” he said.
Keiyo South MP Gideon Kimaiyo said the KDF is incapacitated in discharging its duties in the operation because the soldiers cannot move without police orders.
“Every day, the Interior CS interior threatens the emboldened bandits that they will be met with full force, which has served to motivate them to carry out more brazen attacks. We are asking the CS to act and avoid empty threats. KDF should be allowed to be in charge because the police have proved incapable,” the MP said.