Baringo residents send SoS, say life turned upside down
Wycliff Kipsang @wsang08
Most areas in the banditry-prone North Rift region have not known peace for many years with several families mourning the cold blood killing of their loved ones by armed bandits.
An investigation by People Daily reveals that almost every family living on the expansive and dangerous Tugen-Ilchamus-Pokot border in Baringo county for instance have fallen victims to the perennial cattle rustling menace.
James Barminga, 60, a resident of Ngaratuko in Baringo North sub-county narrated to People Daily how he lost all his 100 cattle to armed raiders in 2010.
“To date, I have never recovered. All my hopes and that of my children went away with the raiders.
My life has been ruined,” he says. Thomas Kimosop of Chepkesin escaped death by a whisker in 2016.
He was cornered while herding his livestock and as he escaped, the gun-wielding rustlers drove all his 159 goats away. It was only five months after his brother was shot dead by bandits.
“The raiders have two options; they either kill you or take away your livestock,” he explained.
Behave like terrorists
In Mukutani in Baringo South sub-county, Sarah Lekirma has never returned to her irrigation farming after bandits raided their village in 2014.
When the guns went silent five people lay dead near Mukutani trading centre. More than 300 families ran away and have never returned.
The bandits then burnt down two shops and vandalised other business premises.
Some families, who took refuge at a nearby church were evacuated by joint efforts by the government and Kenya Red Cross Society. “It was a morning of bullets and we woke up to five deaths.
All Ilchamus left Mukutani then. Those of us who were farmers at Mukutani irrigation scheme left crops in the farm. Some shops were vandalised while others were destroyed,” said Lekirma.
“ The bandits behave like terrorists. The government should rethink its strategy on them,” she added.
Just last week, two people were shot dead by gun-totting suspected Pokot bandits in Kiserian near Mukutani in Baringo South sub-county.
The two, a 71-year old man and his grandson, a Grade Four pupil, who was on holiday until July were herding their livestock when they were ambushed and killed by armed bandits. They drove the livestock towards Tiaty sub-county.
The incident has sparked a mass exodus of people from the area in the hope that they will find a safer place to stay.
The perennial banditry has shattered dreams of many learners in the region with more than 10 schools in Baringo North and South sub-counties remaining closed due to the incessant insecurity.
The worst hit area are: Chepkesin, Kamwetio, Kobot, Kagir, Yatya, Barsuswo, Mukutani and Arabal primary schools which have remained closed since 2005.
Some like Kamwetio were closed in 2010. More than 2,000 pupils forced to flee with their parents face a bleak academic future.
Government efforts to address the menace have not been very successful. At Mukutani in Baringo South sub-county alone, there is a contingent of a multi-agency security personnel camping at the area.
But their presence has done little to ward-off the daring bandits with last week’s killings happening metres away from a heavily-guarded General Service Unit (GSU) camp.
The daring bandits have not spared security personnel either with a military officer being shot dead last month at Mukutani at the border of Baringo South and Tiaty East Sub-counties.
During the attack, unknown number of bandits suspected to be from the neighbouring community ambushed the camps belonging to a multi-agency team of security personnel before firing at the officers killing one of them instantly.
According to Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya, the bandits who staged the attack had fled the ongoing security operation in Laikipia West.
“The officer succumbed to the injuries while being rushed to hospital. It is unfortunate that this is happening just after we reinstated the ongoing operation,” Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya told People Daily in an interview.
The administrator, had two months ago issued a 30 day cease fire in the ongoing operation in Tiaty sub-county to give leaders a chance to preach peace during a meeting held at the Lake Bogoria Spa Resort where Pokot leaders among them Tiaty MP William Kamket made the request.
The government rolled out the security operation to flush out bandits after a GSU operation commander was killed in Ameyan area near the porous Kapedo border while two other officers were seriously injured earlier this year.
A massive disarmament exercise is being carried out in the insecurity prone hotspots of Ameyan, Paka, Silale, Nadome, Kapau, Chesitet and Kapedo. This has however nit done much to curb the runway banditry.
A recent research has recommended a raft of measures to permanently address the menace.
Bishop Alexander Moi, a student at the Breakthrough International Bible University (BIBU) in his research titled “An attempt to find a solution to the unending conflicts in Baringo county” recommends a blend of homegrown solutions as a remedy to the problem. Bishop Moi has recommended the reintroduction of Labai, a Pokot customary punishment mechanism.
In Labai, the author writes: “The practice was that whenever a murder was committed by someone, elders from both sides, culprit and victim, would sit down and agree on the size of compensation to the offended people – the verdict would be binding and final. Such fines, in terms of animals, are generally imposed on the offending community rather than on the individual offender.”
He observes that the method was a perfect deterrent since the Pokot people were averse with losing their livestock because of a mistake done by an individual.”
“That is why a Pokot can never dare kill a fellow Pokot because his family would lose all their wealth in compensation,” the research reads in part.