Knut demands government change tact to fight banditry in North Rift


Kenya National Union of Teachers First National Vice Chairman Malel Langat (left) with Bomet Knut branch secretary Desmond Langat at Reberwet Primary School in Chepalungu Constituency on April 19, 2024. 

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Ntion Media Group

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has called on the government to change its approach to tackling banditry in the North Rift to allow normal learning and teaching to resume in schools in the region.

This follows the death of General Francis Omondi Ogolla and other soldiers in a helicopter crash while on a mission to inspect schools marked for rehabilitation by the military ahead of their opening next week.

Mr Malel Langat, Knut's first national vice-chairman, led the union officials in declaring that "the death of the military top gun and other soldiers should mark a turning point in dealing with the banditry menace in the region".

"The years of unyielding fight against bandits by the government now calls for a change of tact. The blood of the soldiers who perished while on a noble mission, minutes after inspecting a school to be rehabilitated, should be enough of a sacrifice to make the government rethink and tweak its approach to ending banditry," said Mr Langat in Bomet County.

Mr Langat said: "Too many lives have been lost over the years - children, teachers, security officers, administrators, clergy, innocent villagers and pastoralists among others - yet we continue to use the same approach as a government to fight bandits.

"With the kind of attacks we have witnessed in the recent past, what is the fate of the schools that have been closed and where will the learners and their teachers operate from as a result?" Mr Langat said.

He called for beefing up security in the regions using local solutions to end the menace and restore order so that people can go about their business without fear of attack.

Accompanied by National Executive Council members Alfred Rop, Alice Chepkoech Bor and Richard Lentayaa, branch executive secretaries Desmond Langat (Bomet), Willy Korir (Transmara) and Anthony Gioche (Nakuru), Mr Langat said reconstruction of schools and strengthening of security should begin in earnest.

" With schools about to reopen for the second term, there is no guarantee that the attacks experienced in the recent past will not recur and that children and teachers will be able to report to their learning and working places without fear of being attacked by bandits," said Mr Lentayaa.

Mr Lentayaa, who is the Samburu Knut executive secretary, said security officials should be impartial in their approach to fighting banditry to find a lasting solution to the menace.

 "The government's approach of announcing impending security operations only helps the bandits to retreat or change tactics in the insecure areas. Why can't the government launch surprise attacks on the bandits?" asked Mr Lentayaa.

Mr Rop and Ms Bor said banditry had negatively affected learning in schools and colleges in the region, leading to high dropout rates, further complicating the government's struggle to restore order in the North Rift region.

"Children dropping out of school to join the fight against bandits while others join the attackers in raids is a historical problem that we as a country need to put behind us," they said.

Mr Korir and Mr Langat said it was unfortunate that the government had failed to find a lasting solution to the menace since independence, leaving locals living on the edge.

A large number of schools in Turkana, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Laikipia and Samburu, among others, have remained closed as a result of bandit attacks, with the perpetrators evading security agencies.

 The deployment of Kenya Defence Forces soldiers in the region has not helped to rid the area of marauding gangs who seem to know the terrain well and can carry out raids even on police stations and camps before retreating to their hideouts.

Senior and junior police officers, administrators and politicians have faced attacks by the gangs, many of which have ended tragically, with poor infrastructure and outdated cultural practices - especially cattle rustling - cited as the main reasons for the attacks.

Years of disarmament operations have failed to curb the attacks, and the military's use of sophisticated equipment, including drones, has yet to bear the desired fruit, prompting calls for a change in approach.