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Unresolved bandit menace in North Rift, Isiolo, Marsabit

Dec 29, 2023
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Banditry has over decades caused untold suffering characterized by deaths and injuries for people in the North Rift i.e. Kerio Valley, West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, and now Isiolo and Marsabit.

The scars left by the insecurity problem are evident in the affected regions which have now earned a tagline of #Thevalleyofdeath

The areas have stalled development projects by the government, abandoned homes, and high rates of school dropout, poverty, and death.

Innocent Children and Women in 2023 have still suffered the wrath of bandits who raid homes and attacks done by hundreds of young armed men in groups of raiding rival communities across borders of various counties.

Retrogressive cultural beliefs, illiteracy, poverty, and politics have been cited as the main causes of banditry. The practice is reinforced by heavy weaponry obtained from neighboring countries that have been epicenters of conflict and terrorism.

Climate change has also been named as a factor this year as there have been fights over scarcity of water and pasture among the pastoral communities.

As the year 2023 ends months after the government promised to open schools that were destroyed by bandits, the promise was never fulfilled.

The promise was made by both the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and Defence CS Adan Duale that the seven schools which have closed for several years would be opened as Kindiki promised Sh100milion were set aside to build the schools destroyed by bandits.

In their declaration against bandits, the Kenya Kwanza government this year deployed security forces to Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana.

Here are some of the major reported incidences across the North Rift, Isiolo, and Marsabit in 2023:

Man arrested with over 200bullets in bandit-ridden West Pokot

On May 26, 2023, Police in West Pokot arrested a man suspected of being a member of a syndicate supplying firearms and ammunition to bandits.

The 20-year-old man was arrested while transporting the weapons at the West Pokot border in the Alale area.

West Pokot County Commander Peter Kattam said the seized ammunitions were of AK 47 riffles and the man was selling them at the Amukuria Trading Center.

“Police laid a trap posing as buyers of the ammunition at Amukuria trading center. The 20-year-old came with the ammunition in a sack and was arrested.” Kattam said.

It is yet to be established where the bandits get the ammunitions and firearms though it had been earlier revealed that they may be buying illegally at the Ethiopian border and in the Karamojong area of Uganda.

A mop-up of weapons and firearms in the wrong hands has been ongoing in the areas around the Kenya-Uganda border and the West Pokot-Turkana border.

Bandits kill five, two days after injuring officers in Turkana

Bandits killed five people at Lami Nyeusi, West Pokot County, two days after injuring police officers in Turkana County, on April 6, 2023.

The suspected armed bandits according to West Pokot County Commissioner Apollo Okello were from the neighbouring Turkana County and committed the attack in the wee hours of the morning.

The attack came two days after three police officers were shot and injured by bandits in the Kalikanyang area of Turkana.

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The ambush was reported to have happened during a routine changeover of the police in Turkana East Sub-county.

The injured were among eight general duty officers in two police landcruisers that were ambushed by an unknown number of bandits.

Police patrol in the road and grazing fields were henceforth increased to keep bandits away as the two areas were named as the most dangerous and disturbed areas that sustained bandit attacks despite the ongoing multi-agency security operations.

Highway banditry also resurfaced in Turkana with travelers being main targets.

The attacks came as a change of tact by the bandits who have been targeting passengers along the Kitale-Lodwar highway, especially on the stretch between Kalemngorok of Turkana and Marich pass of West Pokot County.

Police officer shot dead, three injured in a shootout with gunmen in Isiolo

A police officer was on September 12, 2023 night shot and killed while three others sustained serious bullet wounds in an ambush by gunmen in the Degogicha area, Merti, Isiolo county.

The gunmen are believed to be narcotics or human trafficking gangs operating on the Isiolo-Moyale route.

A group of 11 officers were patrolling Matarba, Nanu, and Cutline areas on board a Land Cruiser, and on reaching the Degogicha area they came under a gun attack.

They engaged the gang in a shootout for several minutes in the 7 pm incident.

Constable Michael Kimanzi was fatally shot on the left side of his body with the bullet exiting on the right side of his abdomen.

The route from Moyale-Marsabit to Isiolo is usually used in human smuggling and drug trafficking amid efforts by authorities to tame the trend.

Most of the victims are running away from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and the Middle East for jobs.

The smugglers and drug traffickers are said to have resorted to using the cutline route in the bush to avoid the Isiolo-Moyale highway which is manned by multi-sectoral agencies that include police from the Anti-Narcotics Unit and sometimes the army.

In April the ongoing operations to restore stability in part of North Rift received a boost Samburu residents surrendered five rifles to police.

Police said the five men from Parikat also surrendered more than 10,000 bullets on Saturday.

Out of hand; Curfew in Bandit-prone areas

Leaders in the affected regions have been condemning the various attacks accusing the government of failing to beef up security.

They termed the attacks as getting out of hand while security teams have been present in the area.

“Let the security officers be withdrawn from the area if they cannot protect residents as the situation is getting out of hand.” Sigor MP Peter Lokachapong previously told the press.

The government has been targeting to reorganize the management command and control of the National Police Reservists NPR) to supplement the National Police Service (NPS) in the ongoing operations in the areas.

Kindiki imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in banditry-prone areas as he declared them disturbed and dangerous. He also declared parts of North Rift that have been affected by insecurity are disturbed and dangerous.

Last week, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki said there are plans to impose curfew in three counties to tame rising banditry activities adding that they will conduct a security operation in the Upper East similar to what is going on in the North Rift region to tame banditry.

“The operation Maliza Uhalifu we have in Turkana West Pokot and Baringo will be in done Isiolo, Samburu, and Marsabit in the effort to tame banditry. We will put a curfew in the area to sort out the banditry problem.” Kindiki said.

High-profile leaders, and politicians funding banditry

The government has been tightening the noose on several politicians and top commanders facilitating banditry in the North Rift.

At around March 2023, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki indicated that the government had identified high-profile politicians at different levels who are aiding banditry.

He said intelligence collected pointed to a well-coordinated enterprise involving several politicians and influential individuals financing banditry.

In February 2023, Pokot Member of Parliament David Pkosing was arrested by detectives from the Serious Crime Unit over claims of funding banditry.

The arrest came after Trans Nzoia governor George Natembeya claimed that private helicopters were being used to ferry arms and weapons in the troubled Rift Valley region.

The helicopter has been mentioned in numerous security meetings, with residents and police reservists claiming it usually lands in the bandits’ hideout in Baringo South. Residents claim that whenever the helicopter is sighted, bandit attacks follow soon after.

The Korkoron Hills are where hundreds of armed bandits graze livestock as they spy on other areas and plan their attacks.

However, Pkosing denied owning a while chopper and was later released on cash bail by the court.

Regional Counter Terrorism Center

In November, the Regional Counter Terrorism Training Center was established at the Administration Police Service Border Unit in Kanyonyoo, Kitui County.

So far, 264 Border Patrol Unit (BPU) officers have been trained as part of the program, with the numbers expected to increase even more.

The Center builds on the Border Police Unit’s capacity to respond to terrorist activity in volatile areas particularly in the North Eastern and Coast regions well as the use of specialized weapons and tactical equipment in urban and rural settings.

The counter-terrorism facility is meant to help equip security agencies within and outside the country with contemporary skills and knowledge, leveraged with modern technology to combat terrorism.

Change of Tack?

In a new move to tackle the insecurity menace, the government announced that education would be compulsory in troubled areas of the North Rift.

CS Kindiki announced that five new model boarding schools would be built in Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, West Pokot, and Turkana counties.

He stated that the schools would be inter-community in an initiative to spread education for peace.

According to Kindiki, Children learning together would bring forth a generation that will foster long-term peace and harmonious co-existence hence ending the long cross-border hostilities that have been fueling insecurities.

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