• Tells Pokots to expect harsh and relentless operation like the ones in Mt Elgon and Northeastern.
• Security so tight that residents can't access markets after heavily armed security officers mount roadblocks.
This is going to hurt.
That's what Baringo commissioner Abdirizak Jaldesa on Wednesday told Pokot elders about a forthcoming operation to eliminate bandits terrorising residents and killing security forces.
For the last two weeks security officers have been conducting surveys, mapping the land, setting up and making preparations for the operation.
"It will not be business as usual, it will be massive and unrelenting until bandits are cleared out and life can be peaceful," he said.
He said there would be relief supplies and cash transfers.
About 50 Pokot elders and the clergy gathered for a crisis meeting at Jaldesa’s office on Wednesday. They appealed to the government to pursue real bandits but not hurt the rest of the innocent peace-loving members of the community.
“As elders, we are ready to work with the government to hunt down and produce the names of bandits," Chemoling’ot AIC Bishop Yussuf Losute said.
"But it is our prayer to you that innocent people be allowed to carry on with normal activities."
Preparations began two weeks ago, immediately after bandits ambushed and killed eight GSU officers and three civilians. Two people were injured at Napeitom, Turkana East, last Saturday.
“This tells us the banditry has become too much when security and government officers are killed," Jaldesa said.
He responded to the elders, saying, “I am sorry for what is going to happen because the government had no other option to deal with the menace.”
He said his hands are tied because he just honours and acts on orders from the President to conduct a security operation to deal with the bandits.
Don’t expect business as usual, as you will definitely face a ruthless operation like the ones years back in Mt Elgon and Upper NortheasternAbdirizak Jaldesa
“Otherwise, anything else, such as opening markets or removing roadblocks, I will have to consult with my bosses," he said.
Jaldesa said that personally, he had a difficult time holding a meaningful dialogue with the Pokot community, urging them to quickly make peace with neighbouring communities.
He said he was ignored and nothing changed for the better.
“Don’t expect now that things will be business as usual, because you will definitely face a ruthless operation like the ones you heard about years back in Mt Elgon and Upper Northeastern. Those areas are now peaceful," the commissioner said.
He said since July, only 34 illegal firearms have been seized, others willingly surrendered by the bandits.
Four of the eight guns belonging to the GSU officers killed in the Napeitom attack in Turkana have also been recovered.
"Four are still missing and we shall definitely get them," he said.
Jaldesa said enough is enough.
"The thorn of banditry must come to an end because these are just mere people living in our midst, not like al Shabaab in Somalia," he said.
NOT ALL ARE BANDITS
The Pokot elders welcomed the security operation to flush out the bandits, saying for many years they have been unfairly branded with bad names, “we have actually thirsted to make peace with our neighboring communities” Losute said.
He further said not all pokots are bandits, adding that many people including school children, business people and churches will be suffering in the process.
He said currently local markets and routes leading to Tiaty have been blocked and manned by contingent of heavily armed security officers.
“Locals and outsiders cannot enter Tiaty to make business, no foodstuff being supplied and sold while most rural shops have been closed down therefore innocent people might soon end up dying of hunger” Losute said.
He also said schools in the area might be closed down soon owing to lack of food and clean drinking water, “our people are really facing serious crisis amid operation” he said.
Losute said fearing death, most criminals have already fled away to hide in the valleys of Nadome and Akoret along Turkana borders, “and it will be so unfortunate if security officers end up dealing mercilessly with the innocent people” he said.
He added saying the bandits were as few as just two per cent of the entire population in Tiaty Sub-County, “otherwise the rest of the residents are peaceful” he said.
He was backed by Bishop Sambalat Kachepko of Full Gospel Churches of Kenya, Kapedo, Kolowa AIC Reverend Wilson Moru and Churo AIC Reverend Amos Lomoto.
Kachepko reiterated saying all main roads and markets have been closed which is not a good thing for the people of Tiaty, “all of us are not bandits” he said.
He appealed to the government to consider opening markets for people to sell their livestock to feed their families and pay their taxes.
Jaldesa said government will also partner with Red Cross and World Food Program (WFP) to supply relief food to feed the starving population.
“I will let you know as soon as I receive the food donation” he said. Also said livestock off-take and cash transfer program is imminent.
(Edited by V. Graham)