CS Kindiki gives locals in ‘bandit hideouts’ 24hrs to leave

Banditry: Government moves to phase 2 of operation

For nature lovers, Malaso Nature Conservancy is a breathtaking expansion of the picturesque Rift Valley escarpments, which has for years been a major tourist attraction in Samburu County.

At the bottom of the escarpment, gorges, ravines, forests and deep valleys spread over a 64-kilometre stretch from Tiaty in Baringo County through to Samburu and Turkana counties. But the beauty has now been overshadowed by banditry attacks.

It is in this area that security officials have discovered a major hideout for bandits behind the endless killings and cattle rustling incidences in the North Rift.

Since December last year, the view point of the escarpment has received very few visitors and plans by the county government to refurbish it and improve revenue collection have been halted thanks to the bandits and using the area as an armoury. It is this same area that a helicopter has been hovering over almost on a weekly basis, with security officials suspecting it was supplying weaponry and food to the bandits.

Yesterday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki declared the escarpment a crime scene, giving those living there 24 hours to vacate else the government shall not be responsible for what befalls them in the second phase of the operation that began yesterday. This follows intelligence reports that bandits have moved their families to this and other areas to act as human shields.

The ban extends to people living in forests, gorges and caves located in close to 30 locations that have been declared crime scenes. These are Korkoron hills, Tandare valley and Silale gorge in Baringo, Mukogodo forest, Kamwenje, Warero and Ndonyoriwo, Lekuruki hills, Losos and Kiape caves and Sieku valley in Laikipia.

Others are Ltungai Conservancy, Longewan, Nasuur, Lochokia and Lekadaar escarpments, Lolmolok caves, Pura valley, Malaso escarpment and Suguta valley in Samburu, Kapelbok, Nakwamoru, Lebokat, Ombollion, Nadome and Kamur caves in Turkana, and the Turkwell escarpment between West Pokot and Turkana counties.

“Any person found therein from March 13, 2023 8:30am will be treated as a suspect of armed banditry, or as a suspect of aiding and abetting banditry, or an accessory after the fact. Everyone must get out,” said Prof Kindiki.

According to the CS, phase one of the operation that began 25 days ago involved gathering intelligence on the bandits networks and mapping out their hideouts to enable deployment of adequate personnel from the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces.

During the second phase, the security agents will engage the bandits in close combat in an operation Prof Kindiki said would end the crime that has rocked the region for years. Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Gabow is expected to take charge of the operation from Rift Valley Police Commander Tom Mboya Odera.

“Make no mistake, the path we have chosen is full of hazards, as such paths are, but it is consistent with our determination to get this matter into the history books. Years on, our children will be taught how at one time gangs of bandits had terrorised certain parts of our country for decades,” said the CS. He also declared a ban on all low-altitude overflight by any aircraft over the specified areas apart from those involved in the operation.

In the coming week, Prof Kindiki said the government will be releasing profiles of the bandits’ financiers, beneficiaries, commanders, politicians and spiritual leaders, further promising rewards for those who provide information on the bandits.

“The government shall offer significant monetary rewards to any member(s) of the public who give us information that leads to successful arrest of these dangerous elements. Already, one of them, a spiritual leader who has been providing prophetic support to the bandits has been apprehended,” said the CS.

In the last seven months alone, bandits have killed 135 innocent Kenyans, including 20 security officers and stolen thousands of livestock.