Grief, anguish as renewed attacks create more widows, orphans

Erionga Emase's sisters and mother sit pensively next to his grave. He was shot dead by armed bandits after taking a wounded neighbor to hospital at night.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Nakwamoru vilage on the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties has for years bore the brunt of attacks.
  • One family in the village has lost three male members to bandits.
  • Thousands of locals in dire need of relief food as they can't move freely and engage in economic activities.

An air of deep grief and pain greets visitors as they arrive in Nakwamoru village, on the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties.

It is 5pm on a Saturday and every adult in the village, about 50 kilometres from Lokichar, is still. It is all because of the mounting tension resulting from renewed bandit attacks in the region.

Locals are yet to come to terms with the death of one of their own, Erionga Emase, whose kind gesture exposed him to the wrath of armed bandits.

Joseph Eremon recounted how his elderly neighbour, Lopuroto Eloto, had just checked on his livestock in the shed and was back in his house for the night when armed bandits came knocking.

"I heard gunshots and that signaled that all was not well in the village. Due to the darkness, no one could dare to come out of the house," Mr Eremon said.

Taken to hospital on a wheelbarrow

Mr Emase, who was among the first people to check on Mr Eloto, found him writhing in pain from a gunshot injury and all his livestock had been stolen.

Villagers said Mr Emase took the old man to Nakwamoru Health Centre on a wheelbarrow.

"On his way back from the hospital at around 2am, he was shot dead by the same bandits," Mr Eremon said.

Burial arrangements for Mr Emase were made as Mr Eloto was referred to Lodwar County and Referral Hospital for specialised treatment.

Ms Caroline Kokoru sister to Erionga Emase, who was shot dead by bandits after taking an injured old man to the nearby Nakwamoru Health Center. She has lost her father, her husband and now brother in separate bandit attacks.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Ms Caroline Kokoru, a sister of Mr Emase, sat pensively next to their mother near the newest grave in their compound.

Ms Kokoru eulogised his brother as the pillar of the family. He sold firewood and charcoal in the village and water at construction sites. 

Father, husband and brother shot dead 

Her father, husband and now brother, who provided for them and took care of their mother and ensured the children went to school, have all been shot dead by bandits. 

"It is so painful that I have lost my father, husband and brother to insecurity. If security is not beefed up and peace restored, it is possible that my entire vulnerable family will be wiped out,” she said, citing the renewed vigour and determination of bandits to kill at will.

The family called on the government to come to protect locals against bandits or they would starve to death due to lack of food and their children would drop out of school.

Ms Selina Etabo says large tracts of land with huge agricultural potential in the village remain underexploited due to insecurity.

"Many of us have farms where we grow vegetables and cereals as food for our families. The surplus is sold at Kapelbok, Lomerimudang and Kalemngorok centres. These ventures are now risky as bandits now shoot us at will," Ms Etabo said. 

Women bear the brunt

Women are also unable to fetch water from the River Turkwel or firewood.

"Because of insecurity, we are now thousands of locals in dire need of relief food as we can't move freely and engage in economic activities. This is inhumane as wild animals enjoy more freedom than us," she stated.

She appealed to the government to beef up security by first disarming all border residents or recruiting and arming police reservists who can escort them to farms and rivers, as well as provide prompt response when attacks occur.

As a commitment to peaceful coexistence, Nakwamoru locals said they voluntarily handed over firearms to the authorities.

Nakwamoru villagers at the scene where Mr Erionga Emase was shot dead by bandits on his way back from hospital on Tuesday.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Ms Selina Tioko, another resident, said most families in the village are headed by women or children because men had been killed.

She said that after all their livestock were stolen and most husbands and sons killed or injured by bandits, schools have been their only hope.

"All our children are in school with big dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, engineers and pilots. They have forgotten about guns. We urge our neighbors to also embrace education," Ms Tioko said.

Peace spoilers

Kaputir Ward Representative Shadrack Lodong'a said banditry seems to be a well-coordinated network of peace spoilers from both the Turkana and Pokot communities.

Mr Lodong'a said that before the recent attack in the village by armed bandits, there was a peace meeting in the area that was also attended by leaders from West Pokot.

"Leaders and border villagers had all agreed to embrace peace that would enable them to engage in economic activities that can raise their living standards. The attack was evidence that there are a few peace spoilers that must be dealt with," he said.

He said civilians should work closely with security officers to identify known bandits for appropriate action.

Border village hard hit

Mr Ernest Lopem urged the government to deploy administration officers in the border village that has for years bore the brunt of attacks.

In June 2019, bandits shot and killed 55-year-old Nakure Edapal, who was with her friend fetching firewood.

In 2013, more than 200 bandits engaged regular police and Kenya Police Reservists for a week in an attempt to invade and destroy neighbouring Lorogon village, inhabited by more than 900 Turkana families.

Gunmen barricaded every route to the village from the Turkwel Gorge and Nakwamoru and created a man-made humanitarian crisis, with families unable to get to the river Turkwel for water or neighbouring centres and villagers for food and medical services.

Calm was restored after the government deployed more security officers.