Mystery of ‘white helicopter’ in Baringo banditry attacks

Police officers

Police officers in armoured personnel carriers escort a security team in a convoy of four-wheel-drive vehicles during a tour of volatile Kasiela in Baringo South Sub-county on March 8, 2022. Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Maalim Mohamed unveiled 80 police reservists who will be deployed to Baringo South and Baringo North  to supplement efforts by regular officers following persistent banditry attacks in the region.


Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The helicopter was first spotted in early January, weeks before bandits arrived to the area
  • Locals demanded that the government makes public the registration details of the helicopter
  • There are fears that powerful individuals could be using the chopper to supply ammunition to the bandits

The Rift Valley security team is investigating claims that a helicopter has frequently been spotted landing on Korkoron Hills in Baringo County where hundreds of armed bandits graze livestock.

This is amid fears that powerful individuals might be supplying ammunition to the bandits. 

Locals, including police reservists, made the claims during a peace meeting that brought together the county security team, national government administrators and political leaders on Tuesday in Mochongoi in Baringo South.

The meeting was convened by Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mohamed Maalim, who toured troubled parts of the region following recent killings. Mr Maalim confirmed that the claims had also arisen during an earlier county security team meeting.

On Tuesday, Mr Maalim toured Kasiela, Sinoni and Lamaiywe villages. He also unveiled a cohort of newly commissioned police reservists who will supplement security officers stationed in trouble spots.

Locals who spoke at the meeting demanded that the government makes public the registration details of the helicopter, its owners and its mission there, saying, each time it’s spotted, attacks occur after a day or two.

Mr Eric Kibet, a former police reservist, said:“ For one to fly a helicopter or any other aircraft, one must get a license from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. We need to be told who owns [the helicopter] and what business it engages in. If it is the one supplying ammunition to bandits, it must be shot down.” 

Mr Kibet said the white helicopter was first spotted in early January, a few weeks after bandits suspected to hail from neighbouring Laikipia County arrived in the area.

Underhand dealings

“At first we thought it belonged to the police and was carrying out aerial surveys. To our surprise, security officers deployed here denied that it was theirs,” said the local.

Mr Kibet wondered why the government has been slow to investigate how the bandits acquire ammunitions yet they live in the bushes.

He explained that locals had made a habit of staying alert whenever they saw the helicopter, “making inquiries on what direction it came from and where it was heading.

Another local, Mr Benjamin Kangog from Lamaiywe and a former police reservist, claimed that, since January, he has seen the white helicopter more than four times, with the latest being on Tuesday morning.

“It seems whoever operates it got wind that the locals were aware of its underhand dealings in the region and it stopped landing, but it hovers over the hill and we suspect it drops something before it leaves. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes. Immediately after that, we will hear of an attack within the area or in neighbouring villages,” he claimed.

The locals told the Nation that the helicopter is again spotted after each attack, raising suspicions that it might also be restocking the ammunition the bandits have used.

For instance, he said, after the Friday attacks in Kasiela that left two people dead, the helicopter was seen the following day heading towards Korkoron at 6:45 am and left after approximately 10 minutes

“During an attack, the criminals fight with police for hours without depleting their ammunition, which they use unsparingly, meaning that they have more than enough. Where then do they get a constant supply yet they live in the bushes? Powerful individuals are involved in this and the government must name them if peace is to be attained,” said Mr Kangogo who served as a reservist for three years.

Exchange of gunfire

He cited an incident in February where, together with tens of locals, they were building a road in the volatile Lamaiywe to enable security patrol in Korkoron and Tandar villages.

“We were under the watch of several police officers who engaged the bandits. There was a fierce exchange of gunfire between the criminals and the police for more than three hours, but, surprisingly, the bandits never run out of ammunition. An armoured police vehicle came to our rescue and they decided to flee,” he explained.

In a battle field, Mr Kangogo argued, one would expect combatants to use their ammunition sparingly, but the bandits are often extravagant with their bullets, engaging security officers for an entire day without running out of the ammunition, an indication that they have more than adequate supplies. 

“This makes us suspect that the white helicopter may be replenishing their supplies,” he said. He further claimed that, sometimes, the helicopter passes through the area and heads towards Lake Bogoria and to Baringo North and, a day later, attacks are staged in the areas.

“If it is true someone is supplying ammunition to the bandits who are wreaking havoc in the region, then he is an influential person because no ordinary person can dare engage in such a risky affair and with a helicopter to boot, which must be expensive. We need an immediate probe, otherwise we will be wiped out by the criminals,” said Mr Kangogo.

Responding to the claims, Mr Maalim promised to investigate the matter and unravel who owns the helicopter and the reasons behind the frequent visits to the area.

“You have said a helicopter suspected to be bringing a consignment of ammunition to the bandits disguising as herders has been seen hovering the notorious Korkoron Hills. The issue was also mentioned during our meeting with the county security team and I want to assure the locals that the matter is already under investigation,” hesaid.

“It doesn’t matter what position the people behind the helicopter hold and how influential they are, we will go after them and bring them to book. I don’t want to divulge more but we will get into it with the security officials as soon as possible,” he added.