Police deaths in Turkana bandit attack rise to four

Kithure Kindiki

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki addresses a security meeting at Maurus Academy in Chesongoch, Elgeyo Marakwet County, on January 3, 2022. The CS has said cattle rustling and banditry are equivalent to terrorism and that there is not much difference between rustlers, bandits and Al-Shabaab.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

One more General Service Unit (GSU) officer has been found dead following the Friday attack on police by bandits at Napeimoit, Turkana County.

The recovery of the body on Sunday morning brings to four the number of police officers killed by bandits suspected to be from a neighbouring county.

 This comes as leaders from the Rift Valley region mounted pressure on President William Ruto to deploy the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) to tame insecurity and carry out a comprehensive disarmament.

Seven GSU officers were injured in the Friday attack in Turkana. The bandits also torched four police vehicles, besides stealing the slain officers’ firearms and uniforms.

“It is unfortunate four of our dedicated officers have fallen while battling bandits who have destabilised the region. However, this has affirmed our resolve to rid the bandits from our midst,” said Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma.

Following the attack, Mr Ouma said the government had sent additional multi-agency personnel and equipment.

“The war on bandits in the region must be won at all costs and with the enhanced personnel and equipment we shall pacify the area,” he added.

At the thanksgiving ceremony of first-term Mogotio MP Reuben Kiborek, attended by close to 50 MPs, leaders asked President Ruto to deploy KDF in the region.

Led by Senate Majority Leader Aron Cheruiyot, Baringo Senator William Cheptumo and Marakwet West MP Timothy Torotich, they said it was time the country disarmed the warring communities.

“We need total disarmament so that only police officers have guns. Anybody who is not a police officer and owns a gun is a criminal,” said Mr Cheruiyot. “I want to ask the President to order our KDF out of the barracks to come and deal with these bandits.”

Mr Cheptumo, also the Senate’s National Security and Defence Committee chairperson, said the need to deploy KDF to tackle banditry was urgent.

“Kerio Valley is now run by militia. The Office of the Inspector-General of Police is seemingly unable to tame bandits hence the urgent need to deploy the military,” said Mr Torotich.

Baringo North MP Joseph Makilap said in the past, the government has dealt with the Shifta and SDLF using the military and should do the same now.

More than 20 people have been killed and hundreds of livestock stolen, people displaced and property destroyed in the Kerio Valley since January, a small arms survey report revealed.

A section of leaders in West Pokot County have also urged the government to conduct disarmament in all the pastoral communities without bias.

“Security operations cannot be done in only one place. We want the government to mop up all illegal guns from the area. There are still illegal guns in Turkana County and we need disarmament along the Turkana-Pokot border,” said Deputy Governor Robert Komolle.

The leaders faulted poor coordination among the local leadership, security officers on the ground and top security organs for the escalating insecurity. Further, they claim state officers have politicised the issue.

The leaders, who spoke at Chesegon on Saturday, demanded investigations and arrest of some Turkana leaders for allegedly purchasing illegal firearms from South Sudan.

“Let the government arm all the warring communities if it has failed to contain the situation,” said Mr Komolle.

Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto said the government should keenly identify the root cause of the conflicts between the Turkana and Pokot communities.

Reports by Fred Kibor, Stanley Kimuge and Oscar Kakai