Tension high at Kainuk after armed 'herders' attacked travelers
What you need to know:
- Police say they encountered bandits at South Turkana National Reserve hotspot who had disguised themselves as herders
- Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma said they were using cattle as their shield, resulting in the police shooting the animals
- The shooting of the cattle provoked the herders to attack motorists, according to the county commissioner
- Mr Ouma said the bandits ambushed a Turkrift Shuttle, injuring a passenger
Tension remains high at Kainuk near the border of Turkana and West Pokot counties following the Thursday evening attack by armed 'herders' on motorists, during which one person was injured and 200 cattle killed on the Kitale-Lodwar road.
The ‘herders’ had for the better part of the day fought with security officers who are on a mission to flush bandits out of villages and main roads.
Bandits are currently the target of a security operation in Turkana South sub-county.
Turkana County Commissioner Jacob Ouma said the ‘herders,' who were armed, ambushed a Turkrift Shuttle, injuring a passenger.
"Security officers engaged with the bandits at South Turkana National Reserve hotspot that had disguised themselves as herders. They were using cattle as their shield, and that is how several animals were killed," Mr Ouma said.
At least 200 cattle were shot in the incident. The cattle from Masol, West Pokot County were grazing in Kadeng’oi, Kaakong, and Lotapat villages along the Turkwel River in the neighbouring Turkana County.
This provoked the ‘bandits’ to attack travelers in a shuttle, said the county commissioner.
West Pokot leaders, led by Governor Simon Kachapin and MPs Peter Lochakapong (Sigor) and David Pkosing (Pokot South) condemned the killing of livestock as unprofessional.
They accused the police of using unlawful means to evict herders from the grazing fields, terming the incident an unacceptable act of cowardice.
“That is not a good strategy in fighting insecurity. Killing animals is not an answer, animals don’t know what is happening,” protested Mr Kachapin.
Government has failed
The West Pokot leaders said the government had failed in ensuring security in the region.
“Let the government use intelligence. We don’t want collective punishment. Our brother Kindiki (Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki) has failed, he should be serious,” said Mr Kachapin, with the leaders claiming the CS had not listened to their advice on the insecurity in the region.
They demanded that the West Pokot and Turkana County commissioners order the arrest of top security officials in Turkana County who ordered the cattle to be killed, warning that the move could spark conflict among the two communities.
However, Mr Ouma termed the incident isolated, assuring them that it will not recur because there is a heavy presence of security personnel from the General Service Unit, Anti Stock Theft Unit, Rapid Deployment Unit, National Police Service, and National Police Reservists enforcing law and order,
"It won't be business as usual as the ongoing security operation along the main road and villages such as Kaputir, Lokwar, Nakwamoru, Namukuse, as well as farms along River Turkwel is aimed at flushing out all armed bandits so that schools reopen and residents go about their daily activities," Mr Ouma said.
Mr Erick Wekesa, the injured passenger, said he was traveling from traveling Lodwar when he and other passengers noticed armed men herding cattle.
"They shot at our vehicle. A bullet is lodged in my left thigh," Mr Wekesa told Nation at the Lodwar County Referral Hospital.
Mr Mathew Kipsang, the driver of the Turkrift Shuttle vehicle said that for the past three weeks, armed men disguised as herders have been scaring them.
"We want security to be boosted along the road as we use it daily. The stretch between Kaakong and Kainuk is the most insecure," Mr Kipsang said.
He said the bandits have been strategically targeting motorists because traffic has been increasing as schools reopen.
Another motorist, Mr David Mwangi, appealed to security officers to flush armed civilians out of the highway through regular patrols.
"Children are currently the main category of passengers traveling back to school. It will be sad if they will be shot at, robbed, or killed," Mr Mwangi said.
Mr Lochakapong demanded that the government compensate the herders whose cattle were killed.
“Cows are innocent. This is uncalled for,” said Mr Lochakapong.