Leaders want porous borders sealed to prevent bandits fleeing to Uganda

A herder armed with an AK 47 in the Suguta Valley on September 26, 2022

A herder armed with an AK 47 in the Suguta Valley on September 26, 2022 showing one of the exit routes that is used by bandits from Tiaty Sub County after carrying out raids in Turkana County.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Senator Lomenen says failed operations in the past had allowed bandits to roam free on Kenya’s borders, terrorising residents with impunity and even killing police officers though their hideouts like Masol, Lochakula and Turkana South National Reserve are known
  • Local leaders said the Lokori-Kapedo road is the most dangerous in Kenya, with insecurity continuously interrupting learning and business activities in border villages

Leaders from Turkana County want escape routes to Uganda through the porous border in West Pokot County sealed to prevent bandits from fleeing to Uganda.

Locals say the operation should target all known hideouts for armed bandits, even as some local leaders said politicians should also be investigated to find out if they are funding bandits for political mileage.

Their calls came after a multi-agency security team was deployed to pursue bandits who killed 11 people, including eight police officers, on Saturday. The attackers stole livestock from locals in Turkana East sub-county and firearms and ammunition from the dead police officers.

Turkana Senator James Lomenen, Lokichar MCA Samwel Lomodo and former nominated MCA Alice Nakawa said sealing escape routes would make the operation more effective.

Past short-lived operations all failed

Mr Lomenen said past short-lived operations had all failed, including one in 2014 after bandits ambushed and killed 22 police officers and three civilians, and January's operation in Kapedo after GSU deputy operations director Emadau Temako was shot dead.

"When the government rolls out a security operation, bandits tactfully retreat to their hideouts or cross over to Uganda. We want a well-coordinated operation that must silence the guns," he said.

Turkana County Police Commander Samwel Ndanyi said security teams had been deployed to various strategic sites to tackle the bandits.

“I will be joining the security team in Napeitom village to ensure a successful operation," Mr Ndanyi said.

He spoke as Mr Lomenen said failed operations in the past had allowed bandits to roam free on Kenya’s borders, terrorising residents with impunity and even killing police officers though their hideouts like Masol, Lochakula and Turkana South National Reserve are known.

Most dangerous road in Kenya

The leaders said the Lokori-Kapedo road is the most dangerous in Kenya, with insecurity continuously interrupting learning and business activities in border villages.

Mr Lomenen called on the government to deal with politicians who incite and fund bandit attacks.

He said bandits are well organised and have an agenda with a leadership structure that ensures a steady supply of firearms and ammunition.

He said that due to the nature of attacks on the police and civilians, the government and the international community should declare armed groups terrorist organisations.

Women and children bear the brunt

Ms Nakawa said women and children are the most affected by the attacks as their husbands and sons are killed while livestock, the main source of their livelihoods, are stolen in large numbers.

“After successfully disarming civilians in the area, the government should restore law and order and compensate survivors who were injured, lost their loved ones or are poor after all their livestock were stolen," she said.

She urged the State to disregard expected protests from political leaders with hidden interests to prematurely end the operation as that will result in a vicious cycle of insecurity.

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