Police in bandit-ridden West Pokot arrest man with 200 bullets

Residents of Ombolion area in West Pokot county on April 12, 2023

Some of the 20 illegal guns surrendered by civilians in Turkana South Sub County on May 9, 2023.

Photo credit: Sammy Lutta | Nation Media Group

Police in bandit-ridden West Pokot County have arrested a man suspected of being part of a syndicate supplying bandits with firearms and ammunition.

The 20-year-old man was arrested on Wednesday evening while transporting ammunition to the West Pokot Turkana border post. 

He was arrested in Alale area of North Pokot sub-county, which borders Uganda, following a tip-off from the public.

West Pokot County Police Commander Peter Kattam said police officers from Alale area seized 200 rounds of AK47 ammunition from the suspect.

"The suspect was selling the ammunition at Amakuriat trading centre. A trap was laid and police officers, posing as buyers, were able to arrest the suspect who arrived with the ammunition in a sack," he said.

Mr Kattam described the arrest as a breakthrough in the hunt for illegal arms dealers in the restive North Rift region. 

The police commander said the suspect would be charged in court, as he appealed to civilians still in possession of illegal firearms to surrender them to the authorities.

"For a long time, we have been wondering where the bandits get their ammunition from," Mr Kattam said.

"The suspect is helping us with information. We want to know where he gets the ammunition from, who he deals with, who sells the ammunition to him and his market," the county police boss said, noting that the beneficiaries could be people in the county who are armed. 

"These are people who have been involved in banditry activities with a constant supply of ammunition," he said.

Illegal firearms mop up

The county police commander said the government will continue to mop up weapons in the area until it is sure no firearm is in the wrong hands.

"As long as we have ammunition and firearms in the wrong hands, we are not safe," he said, calling on members of the public to volunteer information that could help in the recovery of illegal firearms and ammunition.

"If one wrong person has a gun, the next person is not safe. The other day in Cheptulel, a young man killed his father and himself with an illegal firearm," he recalled.

Mr Kattam said the government was currently taking a diplomatic approach to recovering the illegal firearms, and that tactics would change if people do not support the amnesty to surrender weapons.

"Voluntary surrender is still on and no one will be arrested or intimidated. The only requirement is that individuals hand them over to the nearest police station, chiefs, village elders or religious leaders or any other trusted person," the police commander said.

Banditry has resurfaced along the Kenya-Uganda border and the West Pokot-Turkana border.