Five days to Tuesday’s general election, suspected Pokot bandits stormed Yatya village in Baringo North subcounty and stole 100 goats. The renewed attacks stirred tension among the residents, even before the anxiety of the presidential results set in.
Barketiew sublocation assistant chief Jackson Keitany said the animals belong to Yatya Primary School head teacher Thomas Kiburet.
“The bandits sneaked in around 12 midnight and swept away all the goats from the shed, so there were no confrontations made to repulse the bandits at the time,” Keitany told the Star on Thursday last week.
He said security officers, with the help of residents and National Police Reservists (NPRs), made futile efforts to follow the footsteps headed towards Kositei and Loyamorok locations in the neighbouring Tiaty subcounty.
“One day is now over, yet police are still pursuing the culprits, although no useful information has so far been received leading to recovery of the goats or arrest of the bandits,” Keitany said.
He said the raid occurred barely four weeks after the armed bandits attacked the same village on May 29 and made away with 42 heads of cattle and 200 goats belonging to three families.
“We repulsed the bandits with the help of police and NPR and managed to recover all the goats, but the cows vanished with the bandits towards Kadingding village in Paka location, Tiaty subcounty,” he said.
The administrative officer also said every time they engage and asked the chiefs from the Pokot community to produce the culprits with the stolen livestock, they always decline.
“They daringly say they were revenging and restocking their animals being stolen frequently by the neighbouring Tugen, Ilchamus, Marakwet and Turkana communities,” Keitany said.
On July 8, the bandits shot dead a class seven boy of Boruyo Primary school in Bartabwa division, a day before President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto attended service at AIC church-Kabartonjo in Baringo North.
The killing occurred some hours after the death of Interior CS Joseph Nkaiserry.
“There was a fierce exchange of fire between the bandits and police and officers, before they overpowered the officers and made away with over 50 head of cattle towards Tiaty,” Keitany said, adding that all the livestock were later recovered after a hard pursuit. The bandits then disappeared towards Seretion in Tiaty subcounty.
LIVING IN FEAR
The series of attacks have left residents living in fear of banditry, more so during the election period.
Chemoe resident Richard Chepchomei from Baringo North said over 2,000 residents in Chepkesin, Chemoe and Kapturo have fled following the attacks.
He said over 10 primary schools remain closed, as they were also being turned into homes for over 10,000 residents displaced by the bandits between February and June.
“We had earlier urged security officers to stay alert and to guard the porous borders ahead of the elections, but so far, we fear we might not participate in the elections due to resurgence of the armed Pokot bandits,” Chepchomei said.
He added that the residents have stayed peacefully in the last three weeks but it seems the Pokot bandits are now back, taking advantage of the political distraction.
Chepchomei urged the police officers and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) carrying out security operations in the area to tighten security patrols and intensify barriers along the porous borders of Baringo North, South and Tiaty subcounties.
“It is our right as Kenyans to exercise our democratic right to vote. The government should play its role to protect our lives and property,” he said.
He wondered why the bandits continue to attack, yet KDF soldiers are camped at Loruk trading centre, a few kilometres away.
“I thought a serious operation and disarmament shall take place but shockingly the government is just watching as people are being killed like rats and their animals stolen in broad daylight,” Chepchomei said.
He said more than 30,000 displaced victims of bandits attack are yet to be resettled and are now living in fear of bandit attacks in Baringo North and South subcounties, the places the government marked ‘disturbed’ in March.
The IDPs are currently camping in Chapin, Kapkomon, Sibilo, Kampi ya Samaki, Moinonin and Chemoe in Baringo North, Nyimbei, Mochongoi, Karne, Eldume in Baringo South, Tangulbei and Kaptuiya in Tiaty subcounty.
Other affected areas are Arabal, Kiserian, Mochongoi, Ruggus, Mukutani, Chebinyiny, Kapndasum, Chemorongion and Nyimbei in Baringo South, Orus, Siale, Amaya, Tangulbei, Komolion, Loywat, Nando, Ng’oron, Chepkalacha, Paka, Makutano and Chepkererat.
So far, the armed bandits have killed over 30 people and injured 15 between January and June.
Meanwhile, more than 15,000 Pokot residents, among them the elderly, are dying in Tiaty subcounty of hunger, amid drought and the ongoing security operation in Baringo, Laikipia and Elgeyo Marakwet counties.
SECURITY ‘BEEFED UP’
During his visit to the area last week, Rift Valley regional coordinator Wanyama Musiambo disputed claims of ongoing bandits attacks, saying security had been beefed up.
“We have even deployed at least five KPR officers to man every school, so teachers should have no cause to fear for their lives,” Musiambo said.
More than 500 NPRs were deployed to strengthen security in the North Rift region ahead of Tuesday’s general election.
Earlier, Musiambo had said the NPR will work with the KDF, regular police and Administration Police to ensure peace prevails during the electioneering period.
“We have so far tried as a security team to contain the runaway insecurity in the region, and the remaining part is only to maintain peace and order,” Musiambo said.
He was addressing the public during a peace meeting in Marigat, Baringo South, on June 30.
The meeting was attended by chiefs, elders and locals from the insecurity-prone areas.
Musiambo said the government recruited 151 NPRs in Baringo North, 142 in Baringo South and 240 in Marakwet East and West.
He said this was done after President Uhuru Kenyatta declared the areas insecure and ‘disturbed’ in March.
“We have now gone ahead to confirm and absorb the NPR, so that they assist in beefing up security during and after the election,” he said.
Musiambo said the recruits have already presented their particulars and will be taken through police training in bits so they will serve as officers.
This happens amid an ongoing security operation to flush out armed bandits in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet and Laikipia counties.
Musiambo urged the residents to maintain calm, assuring that there will be peaceful elections.