Tension has gripped banditry-prone Lomelo in Turkana East after armed bandits suspected to be from the neighbouring Tiaty Sub-County invaded the village and torched a section of a perimeter wall which had been erected as a security measure to bar intruders.
The Wednesday afternoon incident happened after an unknown number of armed criminals descended on the village, fired several shots before torching part of the fence.
Locals claim that the bandits, who fled after they were repulsed by security officers, might have torched the fence so that they could get easy access into the village.
Residents in fear
Kapedo/Napeitom MCA Willy Nalimo expressed his concerns over the safety of the locals, noting that residents cannot go on with their daily chores for fear of more attacks from the criminals who are suspected to be still roaming the village.
He faulted the ongoing security operation in Tiaty and Turkana East sub-counties aimed at disarming civilians and smoking out armed criminals wreaking havoc in the region.
He said rampant banditry attacks are being staged in his ward by armed criminals amid an ongoing security operation intended to help seize illegal guns in the region.
“We wonder why armed criminals can invade a village and start shooting at people aimlessly yet there is no livestock in the area. We are just lucky that no one was injured but how safe are we if they can attack during the day in the presence of security officers?” posed Mr Nalimo.
The MCA wondered why the spate of livestock thefts and attacks are happening in the area yet there is a contingent of security officers deployed in the region to smoke out the criminals and bring normalcy to the troubled areas.
He appealed to the government to look for better strategies of taming the perennial menace that has led to loss of lives and crippled development in the area for several years.
“We welcome the disarmament exercise to seize illegal guns in the banditry-prone areas but it is a matter of concern why bandits are still attacking people amid the government’s exercise,” said the MCA.
He added: “We want to see the fruits of this security operation. The bandits should not be wreaking havoc if security officers mandated to carry out the exercise are doing their job well. It is seems the criminals have resorted to challenge the government.”
He said most of the criminals who are fleeing the ongoing disarmament exercise have fled to Nadome, Naturtur, Moruangikokolak, Kayamamuge hills, Moruarengan, Kgumunyikaal and Nkwalem villages.
Police pursuing attackers
Turkana East Sub-County Police Commander Edwin Ogwari assured the locals of their safety, noting that investigations have been launched to nab the criminals behind the attack.
“The security officers repulsed the armed criminals who wanted to stage an attack and they fled into the bushes but we are still pursuing them to their hideouts,” said Mr Ogwari.
Incessant banditry attacks in the volatile Kapedo has led to the deaths of more than 10 people, among them security officers, since the beginning of the year.
Following the spate of attacks, a massive disarmament exercise was launched in the volatile area in a bid to seize illegal guns in the hands of civilians and smoke out the armed criminals wreaking havoc in the area and the neighbouring counties.
The security operation is being carried out in Ameyan, Paka, Silale, Nadome, Kapau, Toplen, Chesitet, Lomelo, Lokori and Kapedo.
Most of the villages in the region under operation are deserted after hundreds of locals fled their homes to escape the wrath of security officers deployed in the area to mop up illegal guns.
Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya recently warned of a more intensive security operation in the banditry-prone Tiaty East, Tiaty West and Turkana East sub-counties if locals will not voluntarily surrender illegal firearms.
Mr Natembeya, in a meeting with chiefs and the clergy at Chemolingot African Inland Church in Tiaty West, insisted that the disarmament exercise launched in the area will continue until they achieve the intended goals.
He directed chiefs in the porous areas in Tiaty to mobilise the locals to surrender the illegal arms before more force is used to in seize them, adding that he will tour the area after the amnesty lapses to review the next course of action.
“It is not our work to go house to house pleading with armed people to surrender illegal firearms. We know that they are there in thousands and if you don’t want to comply, then we will do it our own way,” warned Mr Natembeya.
“The operation will continue until we ensure that all the illegal guns in the hands of civilians in the banditry-prone Tiaty and Turkana East sub-counties are seized and the perpetrators of the perennial banditry attacks are apprehended,” he added.
The administrator accused chiefs in Tiaty Sub-County of failing to tame the perennial menace because they live far away from their areas of jurisdiction.
He raised concern that the criminals roam the villages freely and terrorise locals but the administrators deployed to the hotspot areas have never identified or presented their names for arrest.