Top Stories / National
Thursday, 23 Feb 2017 10:34 EATpwanjiru@kenyafreepress.com
Deputy President William Ruto is expected tomorrow Friday to lead a heavy contingent of government and security personnel to Baringo County which has become a flashpoint for deadly inter-communal violence, where he will hold a peace meeting and give support to security agencies. More than 20 people have been killed in the county over the past three weeks, eight of them in the last six days alone, while security presence remains thin and poorly resourced.
The violence which started as a cattle rustling conflict between Pokot raiders and their Tugen and Marakwet neighbours in Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties has taken a sharp inter-tribal hue as the drought situation persists. The Pokot are a pastoralist group and have moved their cattle in different directions from north east Baringo region (Tiaty Sub County) which they inhabit, invading Marakwet and Tugen people's farms.
Crisis in land ownership, drought and political disharmonies have combusted in the region to deadly effect for a week since two local politicians were killed at Marigat Town. Yesterday, four men were killed in Baringo North by the raiders. Two teachers were also killed at Chemorongion. A boda boda man was shot dead and his passenger seriously wounded and is currently recuperating in hospital, while a woman and her three-day old child were shot dead on Monday.
Over 1,000 residents have fled their homes and two primary schools are currently being used as camps for the displaced, who are living without sufficient water, food or beddings, according to local leaders who spoke to this website.
The crisis is taking a political dimension, with Tugen leaders accusing the Pokot raiders of orchestrating a land grab by driving out landowners through the attacks. The Baringo county government recently launched land adjudication process, the first since independence to cover the whole region. The head of the lands department in the county is a Pokot, and Tugen elders claim he would want the Pokot raiders to be registered as the landowners in plots where they have driven out the farmers.
With the increasing displacement of people, learning in schools has also been paralysed in the region, with more than 30 primary and secondary schools closed. Some school teachers have joined vigilante groups organised to defend the villages by use of poisoned arrows. However, they are no match for Pokot raiders armed with AK47 rifles and who are adept to fighting in the dry conditions.
With the suffering being witnessed, local leaders have expressed concern at the lack of government presence. "What we are asking of the government is to protect innocent civilians," said teachers’ unionist Joshua Cheptarus, who has asked his members not to report to work unless the security situation improved.
Political activists have questioned the whereabouts of the heavy police equipment that President Uhuru Kenyatta launched in Nairobi with much fanfare three weeks ago, among them over 500 police vehicles and other equipment, including armored personnel carriers and trucks the president said were meant to increase the force's mobility and effectiveness.
“Our people are dying at the hands of bandits when the police have heavy artillery that were bought at taxpayers’ expense, where should the equipment be used if not to protect civilians against raiders operating with impunity,” asked an elder who preferred to be not identified.
Since the two politicians, MCA Kibet Cheretei and Tiaty Jubilee parliamentary aspirant Pepe Kitambaa were shot dead on Saturday at a bar in Marigat town, Tugen leaders have demanded that the police investigate local county assembly Speaker William Kamket and Tiaty MP Asman Kamama.
Early today, the Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Wanyama Musiambo who has jurisdiction over Baringo said 200 Kenya Police Reservists had been recruited from Baringo North and South (Tugen-inhabited areas) to help the police undertaking security operations in the area. Locals interviewed by the media spoke of there being no security operations.
Mr Musiambo said the police had embarked on aerial surveillance of the troubled region, informing journalists that latest attacks were reported in Yatya and Chepkesim areas of Baringo North sub-county.
Addressing journalists in Nakuru Town, Mr Musiambo said that to back up the aerial surveillance, police will use armored vehicles in the cause of their patrols.
Jackson Okata contributed to this report from Nakuru