Kainuk town suffers effects of banditry as investors keep away

Kainuk residents protesting on September 6, 2022 over frequent bandit attacks

Kainuk residents protesting on September 6, 2022 to express their frustration over what they termed as economic sabotage by bandits from neighboring West Pokot County, following frequent attacks. 

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Residents of Kainuk town, near the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties, have protested against bandit attacks on pastoralists and motorists, saying insecurity has ruined their lives and the local economy.

They said the attacks have scared away potential investors and local investors in the hospitality industry were losing money as visitors feared for their safety.

Ms Margaret Arot, a resident, said that last Monday the sound of bullets pierced the air as bandits attacked Naregaekamar to steal livestock. 

But they were repulsed by Anti-Stock Theft Unit officers, she said.

Bandit attacks in Kainuk, a gateway to Turkana County, and Loyapat and Kaakong in Turkana South sub-county had left traders counting losses and many had closed down their businesses.

"Major hotels no longer prepare meals for more than 100 customers when targeting road users, as immediately after there is an attack, motorists do not stop to eat," Ms Arot said.

Hospitality industry affected

Most accommodation facilities that used to have at least 90 percent bookings now record less than five percent, mainly civil servants or employees of agencies. 

Locals say towns on the Kapenguria-Lokichar highway have seen a drastic reduction in the number of customers.

Swahili Dishes Hotel, Safari Plaza Hotel, Rhumba Place and Dynasty Hotel are some of the most affected joints in Kainuk.

Little business activity in Kainuk town near the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties

Little business activity in Kainuk town near the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties following persistent bandit attacks.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Ms Arot said that fresh farm produce traders relying on farms located on the banks of River Malimalite, and charcoal and firewood traders are also affected.

Mr James Ekitela, a matatu driver, said that despite insecurity along the road, people are still travelling.

"As some of our security strategies, we either wait for a security escort from Kaakong in Turkana South or from Marich Pass in West Pokot. We don't stop in Kainuk as we used to, because we fear we may be targeted," Mr Ekitela said.

Security patrols

He called for enhanced security escorts and patrols, saying that when bandits fail to steal cattle, they resort to highway attacks.

“We want security personnel not to patrol only when there are attacks. Highway patrols at hotspot areas must be done frequently," said Mr Ekitela.

Fresh farm produce traders in Lodwar said they are also affected by insecurity as trucks are delayed, with drivers from Kapenguria and Kitale monitoring the situation.

Deserted shops at Kainuk town arising from sustained attacks by bandits, which have scared away investors and clients.

Deserted shops at Kainuk town near the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties on September 6, 2022. It follows sustained attacks by bandits, which has scared away investors and clients.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Businesses abandoned

Residents have abandoned their now risky main economic activities until security is beefed up.

"We can't continue with our normal activities that include farming, charcoal making and fetching firewood for sale that are along our reliable River Malimalite," said Ms Jane Akal, a resident of Kainuk.

She wants a security operation that includes escorts conducted along the border and on the road between Kainuk and Kalemngorok to assure motorists and locals of their security.

"Kainuk is on the border, but there are no business activities due to high tension. Drivers do not stop for food, drinks or accommodation," he said.

Mr James Ome, a Kainuk resident, said that in the South Turkana National Reserve, bandits continue to attack villages and motorists.

"We have established the origin and the destination of bandits terrorising us. They come to villages from the national reserve knowing very well that no one will chase them from their hideouts in the reserve," Mr Ome said.

Highway banditry

Turkana Governor Jeremiah Lomorukai said highway banditry, especially from a stretch between Lokichar and Kainuk, will not be condoned. He said he will work closely with security officers to identify perpetrators and inciters of the criminal activities.

"I plead with leaders from West Pokot County to work with us so that together we can eliminate archaic banditry activities and ensure we have a conducive environment for developing border villages and towns," Mr Lomorukai said.

He said his administration is striving for a new dawn where border pastoralists coexist peacefully and take children to school and the elderly, women, people with disabilities and youths are empowered.