State changes tactics in banditry war

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki (center) with Interior PS Raymond Omollo, and Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome during an event March 12, 2024.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The government is considering reviewing the curfew imposed in some parts of the banditry-prone North Rift.

Security agencies will have a central command in Chemolingot as the war on banditry is sustained.

The new plan will also see increased presence of senior security officers in the troubled region under Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome.

The government is also mulling a return of curfew in some of the worst affected areas in the six counties that were declared “disturbed”.

The developments come hot on the heels of a Saturday meeting between President William Ruto, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and senior security officers in Kilgoris on the situation in the North Rift.

Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo, Mr Koome and his two deputies Douglas Kanja and Noor Gabow also attended the meeting.

President Ruto gave the security brass up to this week to deal with the menace. 

He did not, however, say what will happen if they fail to do as ordered. 

The situation in West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and Laikipia continues to deteriorate despite the presence of security teams.

Several people have been killed, many injured and households displaced as bandits reign supreme, with Baringo bearing the worst brunt.

Local leaders say more than 70 people have been killed by bandits and livestock thieves in Baringo in recent months. 

In an interview with the Daily Nation, Dr Omollo said the changes came after the government reassessed the gains made and the existing gaps.

He added that there would be increased presence of top security officials in the region.

The PS said a senior officer from Nairobi would be in charge of the Chemolingot operation centre “to provide a single command, with the regional command to supplement”.

“We did an assessment and realised that we can do better with one source of control as opposed to different commands,” Dr Omollo said. 

He added that the efforts to contain insecurity have resulted in significant gains, “except for retaliatory attacks by communities”.

Dr Omollo cited the presence of police officers, police reservists and support from the military.

“Until a few weeks ago, we had sustained the momentum and contained the situation,” he said.

Without giving timelines, the PS said the government could review curfew orders.

In February last year, Prof Kindiki gazetted the six counties as “disturbed and dangerous”.

The move followed the killing of at least 100 civilians and 16 police officers in the six months leading to the decision.

The PS said government officials have had an engagement with local leaders in an effort to allow security agents to work without interference.

“If you possess a gun illegally, you know what will happen. If you are killing people, then you know what must happen,” Dr Omollo said.