FORCED DISARMAMENT

North Rift faces lockdown in harsh security crackdown

Dusk-to-dawn curfew in iron-fisted security operation after Kapedo failed to wipe out criminal gangs, bandits

In Summary
  • Regional leaders opposed security operation in Kapedo area that started in January and was suspended a week ago. But they only collected three guns. 

  • This operation will be ruthless and indefinite, roads will be blocked in the next day or two, the government will control distribution of aid so bandits and criminals not fed. CS Matiang'i to declare curfew.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, George Natembeya addresses the media in his
DANGER ZONE: Rift Valley Regional Commissioner, George Natembeya addresses the media in his
Image: LOISE MACHARIA

The government will lock downNorth Rift in the next 48 hours, impose a dusk-to-dawn curfew and launch a formidable security operation and forced disarmament.

County leaders only recovered three guns in the region that suffers from a leadership vacuum and where leaders fear residents, Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya said.

He announced the security operation on Tuesday at his office  in Nakuru. The aim is to wipe out criminal gangs, bandits and cattle rustlers.

Natembeya said the government decided to deciare the whole region a security operations area and commence forced disarmament of warring communities.

Natembeya said the three-month grace period for voluntary surrender of weapons failed.

The security operation will be carried out by a multi-agency team of the General Service Unit, Anti-Stock Theft Unit, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, National Intelligence Service, Rapid Deployment Unit and National Government Administrative Officers.

Leaders in the region strongly opposed the government security operation in the Kapedo area in January this year and appealed for time to persuade residents to give up arms.

Notorious for violence, Kapedo is in Turkana on the border of Baringo county.

On Tuesday Natembeya said the peaceful disarmament efforts led by governors, parliamentarians, MCAs and other leaders only recovered three guns in a little over two months.

“The grace period was to expire on April 23 but we have decided to move in because it is clear leaders have failed, they fear their constituents and cannot offer any leadership,” he said.

Natembeya said North Rift suffered a leadership vacuum because the leaders fear follow the dictates of their constituents.

“Proliferation of arms in the region is very high, almost every family owns several guns and one wonders how the leaders who were highly opposed to forced disarmament could only manage to recover three guns,” he said.

Natembeya was accompanied by regional heads of security agencies said the operation that was initially in Baringo will extend to Laikipia, Samburu, Turkana East and West Pokot.

He said roadblocks along all routes leading into the region would erected on Wednesday or the day after.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew will be declared soon afterward by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, the Rift commissioner said.

He said impunity had set in among residences who started raiding their neighbours, ostensibly to show the government the ground was still the same.

“There will be no entry or exit from the affected areas for the indefinite period of the security operation. Even humanitarian aid will be controlled and directed to targeted destinations,” he said.

Natembeya said humanitarian aid is distributed indiscriminately, going both to bandits and those affected by the "war" alike. It's wrong to feed bandits, he said.

On traders ferrying food items to the counties, Natembeya said some of them were being used as conduits for arms.

“We cannot have police officers inspecting all the bags of food being taken there and in some cases guns are hidden in those sacks,” he said.

Asked if the Kenya Defence Forces had been deployed to North Rift, Natembeya said the situation had deteriorated so much that it could well require the military.

He restated that the government was not considering engaging National Police Reservists, saying the NPR had been abused and worsened the situation, instead of ensuring security.

(Edited by V. Graham)