Distraught families of the eight police officers who succumbed to injuries after being attacked by Pokot bandits yesterday thronged Wilson Airport to receive the bodies of their loved ones as the National Police Service launched an intense operation to apprehend the killers.
“We have been told to come here as the chopper that went to pick them will be landing at this airport but we are not sure of the exact time,” a relative of one of the officers — a woman — who was killed told the Nation.
The eight constables, a local chief and two civilians were killed in the attack while two others sustained serious injuries.
Yesterday, Turkana Police Commander Samwel Ndanyi confirmed that all the bodies had been recovered and were awaiting an airlift to Nairobi by evening.
Some victims of the attack had appealed for security reinforcement through WhatsApp messages.
“Help us, help us ...Riet village has been attacked, please help us, come to our rescue,” reads one message.
Seven GSU officers
“They were ambushed by the bandits at Namariat near Kakiteitei village in Kapedo/Napeitom ward. At the scene, seven GSU officers and a driver from the police were shot dead,” Mr Ndanyi said.
He added: “A motor vehicle from Lokori ferrying peace caravans to Kamuge village, unknowingly got caught up in the ambush. As a result, Napeitom Senior Chief Gilbert Lomukuny and peace crusader Mary Kanyaman, who were inside the vehicle were also shot dead by the bandits.”
Lodwar County and Referral Hospital Chief Executive Officer Dr Joseph Epem confirmed that three people with gunshot wounds were admitted to the facility.
Mr Philemon Ekaale, a resident, eulogised Kanyaman, a former Samburu County Health Executive, as the voice of Suguta Valley.
“She fought for peace along the Kapedo-Suguta belt and died championing peace and justice. No one will ever fit in her shoes,” he said.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Maalim Mohamed warned of a major operation to flash out the bandits and help restore law and order in the region.
“It will not be business as usual. We’re going to smoke them out of their hideouts,” Mr Maalim, who is to lead a team of senior security officials in touring the area in Turkana East, said.
“What happened is an act of cowardice but it will not deter us from bringing these criminals to book,” added Mr Maalim.
Police spokesman Bruno Shioso said additional police officers have been dispatched to reinforce those troops on the ground.
Kerio Valley is occupied by members of the Pokot, Turkana, Marakwet, Tugen, Illchamus and Samburu communities, who are entangled in protracted armed conflict.
Less than 24 hours after the attack, a police reservist managed to arrest two men suspected to have stolen five cattle from Kisima Girls High School in Samburu as they herded the animals towards Suguta Marmar at 8am .
The two suspects in yesterday’s incident were attacked by irate residents who wanted to lynch them. In the process of trying to protect the suspects, the officer accidentally discharged his firearm and killed a 52-year-old man.
Robbery with violence charges
Samburu Central head of criminal investigations said the two suspects, Musau Lenduda and Lenong’iro Metinda, will face robbery with violence charges.
The attacks appear to be on the rise despite assurances by President William Ruto’s administration. Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, while attending the funeral service of former Baringo Deputy Governor Charles Kipngok at Solian Girls High School, assured Kenyans that the government would address the banditry menace.
“This small work of security is my mandate, it’s not the President’s mandate. I will personally call the meeting of Kerio Valley leaders and all security officers and I will be the chairman,” Mr Gachagua said.
Five Turkana MPs have, meanwhile, told the government to urgently create a special police unit that incorporates pastoralists to end the menace..
Turkana West MP Daniel Epuyo, who is also the chairperson of the Turkana MPs caucus, said government must now implement a people-driven security arrangement by identifying, training and recruiting pastoralists as part of a special National Police Reservists force.
“Let Turkana pastoralists be part of their security to end this menace. The best people should be locals. The government has been creating new police units; we also need a special security team to deal with the bandit issue once and for all. The same has happened to good effect in Turkana West and Samburu,” Mr Epuyo said.
Extend food relief
The MPs also want the government to compensate affected families for loss of their loved ones and livestock as well as extend food relief and financial support to them.
“It is time the government walks the talk because the raids are no longer cattle rustling, they have turned into terrorism,” he said.
Turkana East MP Nicholas Ngikor said that in three months, 42 lives have been lost, at least 1,000 families displaced and more than 2,000 livestock stolen from the area.
“It’s time to see action rather than mere words as the government has only been making promises. We ask the government to make sure all the stolen livestock are recovered and displaced families are taken back to their homes,” Mr Ngikor said.
“Schools are opening yet our people are camping in churches and under trees,” he added.
Turkana South MP Namoit Asiko said the government should now put to use advanced security technology and intelligence to avert such raids. He added that he is preparing a Bill that if enacted, will force the government to compensate people who lose their lives and property in such raids.
“The bandits plan the raids beforehand and it’s the responsibility of the government to avert such plans,” he said.
Turkana Central MP Emathe Namwar said the government should go after political leaders fuelling the attacks.
“The provincial administration officers like chiefs know when such raids are about to happen and even when the stolen livestock arrive in their areas and they should also be held to account,” Mr Namwar said.
Reports by Sammy Lutta, Barnabas Bii, Mary Wambui and Collins Omulo