Students bear brunt of Marsabit’s bloody feuds

More than 20 people, mostly youths, have been killed in a wave of attacks in two months.

In Summary

• While the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, residents of Marsabit worry more of banditry and communal fighting.

• Confrontations have persisted for years despite dozens of high-level peace meetings attended by leaders and security chiefs.

The graves of Godana, 16 and Musa, 17 students from St Pauls High School who were killed on June 22.
The graves of Godana, 16 and Musa, 17 students from St Pauls High School who were killed on June 22.
Jessica Leado, 23, who was a third-year student at Tangaza University College killed in Marsabit on June 8
Jessica Leado, 23, who was a third-year student at Tangaza University College killed in Marsabit on June 8
George Obielle, 27, a fourth-year student at Kenyatta University, killed in Marsabit on June 8
George Obielle, 27, a fourth-year student at Kenyatta University, killed in Marsabit on June 8

‘Varsity students among 15 massacred in Marsabit clashes’

‘Four more killed in fresh attack in Marsabit despite peace calls’

‘Police to investigate perpetrators of ethnic killings in Marsabit, says Achoki’

‘Police officers among 10 killed in Marsabit bandit attack’

‘Two herders killed by bandits in Marsabit’

These are some of the headlines that introduce stories of killings that have persisted for years with no sign of an end.

Compiled over the years, the headlines can form an 800-word story but the gory details can make up a book. Yet the authorities in the northern county have failed to end these sad tales of loss of human life.

While the world fights coronavirus, residents of Marsabit worry more about banditry and communal fighting, which have killed more than two dozen people in the last two months.

On June 22, this writer got a text message that two boda boda riders from the Borana community had been killed in the morning by unknown gunmen at Bank Quarters in Saku constituency along the Dirib-Marsabit road.

Godana, 16, and Musa, 17, were students at St Paul's High School in Form 1 and 2 respectively. Their companion, a Standard 6 pupil, escaped narrowly with a broken leg.

The survivor said the students were gunned down by uniformed rangers at a nearby conservancy.

Following hours of tension that led to the closure of businesses in Marsabit town, gunmen killed another boda boda rider at Ilipus, Marsabit Central.

A police report filed at Marsabit police station under OB NO 51/23/06/2020 indicates that Adrian Allan Lenkopiya, aged 20, succumbed to gunshot wounds while his two colleagues escaped unhurt.

“It was established that three male Rendille adults namely Adrian Allan Lenkopiya aged 20 years, Jeremiah Lentale aged 19 years and Patare Letenya aged 26 years while riding a motorcycle Reg no. KMER 381S make Boxer, red in colour, from Karare to Songa on reaching the area of the incident were ambushed and attacked by people armed with unidentified riffles,” the report reads.

The report adds that four cartridges of 7.62 x 39mm were collected from the scene.

Residents said Allan was a Form 4 student in Wamba High School.

The two killings were suspected to be a result of retaliatory attacks.

The three students murdered just hours apart are among 25 people killed in two months in what is said to be tit-for-tat attacks.

Two university students, Jessica Leado, 23, and George Obeille, 27, were gunned down alongside Dan Lentare, 17-year-old Form 2 student, and Chuchu Mosor, 23, a boda boda rider, on June 8.

They were on their way home in Songa location near Marsabit town.

Leado was a third-year Bachelor of Education student at Tangaza University College in Nairobi. The third born in a family of six was shot eight times.

She was the vice chairperson of Rendile University Students Association.

Obeille was a finalist B.Ed student majoring in Geography and Mathematics at Kenyatta University in Nairobi.

A footballer and short-distance athlete in high school, Obeille scored 364 points in KCPE and B plain in KCSE.

The learners were returning home after online studies in Marsabit town. The assailants ambushed their boda boda and sprayed them with more than 30 bullets.

Lentare, the 17-year-old, was a high school student in Meru County.                                     

Mosor, whose younger brother was among three children gunned down while heading home from a church youth camp in 2015, was a Form 4 leaver and the sole breadwinner in his family after his father died last year.

A close relative of Leado lamented the laxity of security officials in arresting trigger-happy militias community members say are known.

“Making it to high school even to university in this area is a big achievement. You have to triumph over extreme poverty, repressive cultures and stigma to succeed in school,” she said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

She said that she had lost six relatives over years in the attacks.

While addressing a press briefing in Nairobi days after the killing of the four, leaders claimed the attack had been planned.

“It is an open secret that the neighbouring communities have schemed to rob the Rendile of their ancestral land because of their vulnerability,” Laisamis MP Musa Arbele said while reading a joint statement.

“From 1994 to date, 204 innocent people, the majority women and children, have been killed while either going or coming from Marsabit town to their homes." 

A day after the killing, police using sniffer dogs traced two attackers to the nearby homestead of a former politician but the Star has learned no arrests have been made to date.

The killings led to protests along the Marsabit-Isiolo highway in which two women were injured as the police dispersed the protesters.

“We have been waiting for news of arrest but nothing is forthcoming. We lost very bright students. You know it's very hard to make it to university from hardship areas,” Karare MCA Leado Stephen told the Star. The four victims were from his ward.

On June 13, clashes pitting Borana and Gabra communities left four boys dead at a watering point in Saku subcounty.

Holding only sticks, the four were gunned down by militias as Governor Mohamud Ali of Marsabit and his Wajir counterpart Mohamud Abdi flanked by elders from both communities held a peaceful meeting at Badarero, Moyale subcounty.

The meeting, which brought together more than 10 MPs and 10 MCAs resolved to have elders from communities meet after every six months to look into triggers of the violence.

The communities in Marsabit county include the Degodia, Rendile, Orma and Borana.

Reports indicate that in 2017 before general elections, three children were gunned down while herding cattle in Hulahula.

And after the elections, two boys were attacked in the same area. One died.

The confrontations have persisted for years despite dozens of high-level peace meetings attended by governors, top security chiefs and elders from concerned communities.

Press briefings and releases from politicians haven’t helped in ending the bloody ethnic hatred.

Interior CS Fred Matiang’i said there was a “need to change our doctrine of internal security in that particular part of the country.”

He spoke at Wilson Airport on June 13 while receiving security chiefs who crashed in a police chopper while heading to Marsabit on a peace mission.

“I have held countless meetings in Harambee House with leaders of that part of the country. We cannot allow this to continue," he said.

The killings have exacerbated impacts of coronavirus pandemic in the communities who now want to the government to walk the talk in ending killings.

Is anyone watching? Is anyone listening? Residents want the state to move with speed to address Marsabit’s epidemic of communal violence.

Edited by Henry Makori