Baringo county has once again been turned into a den of death as armed Pokot bandits make good their threat to restock and take revenge.
This amid a security operation by regular police, Kenya Police Reservists and the Kenya Defence Forces.
In March President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto declared Baringo North, South, Elgeyo-Marakwet and Laikipia disturbed. They ordered a massive operation to flush out the bandits.
In February Ruto had issued a shoot-to-kill order. The bandits had killed some 20 people that month, injured many and displaced 30,000 residents in the lower Baringo North and South subcounties.
Last week the Star carried a story about unidentified Pokot ‘bandits’ saying they would carry out a revenge attack and steal animals from the neighbouring communities.
“This time round, it’s not to pay dowry but to restock our animals being killed by the military officers.”
It was clear from the story that Pokot herders love their livestock more than life itself.
On Saturday, armed Pokot bandits attacked Ng’aratuko, Baringo North subcounty, and shot dead two people – Kiptuisang Lemuga, 13, and herder Endao Ageno.
Lemuga was a standard six pupil at Kosile Primary School.
The bandits drove away 600 goats towards Seretion, Tiaty subcounty, after a fierce gunfight with KPRs.
Earlier on Wednesday, the bandits had struck and made of with 400 goats belonging to seven people from Kagir, Natan and Yatya.
Tension is high in Loruk, Kagir, Natan and Yatya villages after a series of raids over a week
Resident Richard Chepchomei said the attacks happen under the watch of security officers.
He blamed the government for not commanding the KDF soldiers camped at Loruk trading centre to repulse and kill the bandits.
“We thought a serious operation and disarmament will be conducted but shockingly the government is just watching as people are being killed like rats and their animals stolen in broad daylight,” Chepchomei said. Nothing has been done since the operation began, he said. The KPRs deployed on the border of Baringo North and South are overpowered by the bandits, Chepchomei said.
On Sunday, the bandits hit Lamoiwe village in Mochongoi division, Baringo South and shot a 12-year-old boy.
Bernard Boiwo was shot in the right thigh. The standard six boy at Kapkechir Primary School is recuperating at Nyahururu hospital in Laikipia county.
Some 2,000 people, including schoolchildren, have fled fearing for their lives and are now camped at Kabel, Karne and Tuiyotich.
Mochongoi chief Patrick Kamerey said 40 armed Pokot bandits stormed the village at 3pm.
The few KPRs and Tugen herders, only armed with poison-tipped arrows, were easily overpowered.
The bandits stole 122 head of cattle belonging to 11 families and drove them towards Chesirimion, Tiaty subcounty.
“The visibly frustrated and homeless locals are now confused and in need of food and shelter,” Kamerey said.
The worst-hit villages are Arabal, Chebinyiny, Kabel, Kamuryan, Kapkechir, Lomoiwet, Nyimbei, Sampaka and Tuiyotich.
Baringo North assistant deputy county commissioner Mohammed Sheh confirmed the incident, saying there was no casualties.
Thousands of residents are now fleeing the area again for fear of more attacks. “We are urging them to maintain calm as the government works to restore sanity,” Sheh said.
On Thursday, Tiaty subcounty deputy assistant county commissioner Rogers Ochieng warned Pokots against attacking and stealing from their neighbours, the Tugen, Marakwet and Ilchamus — all pastoral communities.
“I know the rainy season is here and Pokot herders are set to return their animals from grazing across the borders, so I urge them to move back peacefully without stealing from their neighbors,” Ochieng said.
He had accompanied officers from the Kenya Red Cross Society and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital to distribute relief food in Kolowa division on Thursday.
Addressing the media in Kabarnet town on Monday, Kenya National Union of Teachers Baringo executive secretary Joshua Cheptarus urged teachers to avoid schools in attack-prone areas.
Cheptarus said teachers are flocking to his office seeking transfers. He asked the Teachers Service Commission to heed to their plight.
Cheptarus said some schools in Baringo North and South subcounties remain closed due to high tension.
Two teachers were killed in March in Baringo: Philemon Kipkemoi of Kapndasum Primary School, Baringo South, and Daniel Kangogo of Atiar Primary School, Baringo North.
“We cannot allow our teachers, armed only with pieces of chalk and pens, to lose their young lives to the heavily armed bandits,” Cheptarus said.
He quoted a teacher who said, “I would rather quit my job permanently than be reprimanded to go back and teach in the same school in Tiaty.”
The schools facing closures include Barsuswo, Chemoe, Chepkesin, Kagir, Kapturo, Lokorotabim, Loruk, Ngaratuko, Toboroi, Tuluk and Yatya in Baringo North; Arabal, Chebinyiny, Chemorongion, Embosos, Kabel, Kapndsum, Karma, Karne, Kasiela, Katilimwo, Keon, Lamaiwe, Noosukro, Nyimbei, Ramacha, Rugus, Siarata, Sosionte and Tuiyotich in Baringo South subcounty.
These schools were turned into temporary shelters for the internally displaced.
Early Childhood Development and secondary school teachers are stranded as well, with nowhere to report to work.
In February bandits killed a young mother who had been breastfeeding her three-day-old baby in Natan village, Baringo North.
Brief of armed Pokot bandits
Armed Pokot herder Dodonyang Sawel told the Star at Chemolingot, Tiaty subcounty, on March 27 they will never drop his guns. .
“We will continue raiding, this time not to pay ‘dowry’ but to restock our 10,000 head of cattle stolen by the Tugen, Marakwet and Ilchamus communities,” he said.
Sawel said more livestock were shot dead by security officers in ongoing security operation.
The Pokots declared war, saying the government should compensate them or else they will stop at nothing until they replace their lost animals.
They blame the massive lose of their “valuable” livestock on reckless shooting by police and KDF soldiers and prolonged harsh drought.
The Pokots said they will continue to raid the Marakwet, Turkana, Samburu, Laikipia and Baringo communities during the long rains season to restock.
Herder Arekai Obwotum accused the state of taking sides in the security operation and sparing the Tugen, Ilchamus and Marakwet communities.
“We are now up in arms to reclaim our lost animals,” he said. Obwotum lamented that he does not know how he will take care of his family after losing some 500 livestock.
He said 80 of his cows were shot dead by KDF at Komolion, on the border of Tiaty and Baringo South.
Obwotum said if the government fails to compensate him, he will not drop his gun, even if it means dying by it, until he recovers his lost animals.
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