Tension in Baragoi as locals flee ahead of KDF operation

By Rawlings Otieno and Michael Saitoti

Tension is high in Baragoi area ahead of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) operations that is expected to engage the bandits and ensure stolen animals are returned.

As residents of the area move to various parts of Samburu and Turkana counties, it is suspected that some bandits are also on the move with them.

According to sources familiar with the area, the bandits who have been camping at Suguta Valley just a few kilometres away from the massacre scene are fleeing the area heading to Lokori area.

And as they move for fear of the KDF operations, no security is available in Baragoi and Suguta Valley, except for the police rescue team. Some of the officers believed to have died in the attack have not been found and with seven days gone after the massacre, hopes of recovering the bodies of the fallen heroes get slimmer by the day.

This is attributed to the raging wild anmals in the valley, which police say might have eaten the bodies. Although the recovery operations are still going on, the residents fear the bandits may strike any time and are now heading to Maralal, Kinamba, Lumuruti and Isiolo.

Some junior police officers who requested anonymity said that they were not satisfied with the recovery operations of the bodies in Suguta Valley, which has now taken more than seven days.

They also criticised the Government for failing to make efforts in helping the relatives of the victims to find their loved ones.

But on Saturday, contingent of Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) officers jetted in Maralal to help police in Baragoi to maintain security in Suguta even as the recovery team continues with their search.

But 60 kilometres away in Baragoi, trucks are loaded with women, children and the elderly with their belongings not knowing when lasting peace will prevail in the conflict-prone spots that has caused havoc for many years.

Among them is Lonuko Ekalotul, who had fled Baragoi together with her two children to Loikas in Maralal town.

Revenge attacks

The 60-year-old grandmother lost her husband to the bandits 20 years ago in Lomerok, where just three weeks ago, 34 Samburus were killed during their revenge mission to recover their 500 cattle.

She says that Baragoi has become inhabitable to them after they heard about the army being deployed there to end the cattle rustling in the region.

“I fled with my two children because we heard that the army are soon coming to fight the bandits. I fear because we might be killed,” says Ekalotul.

But Ekalotul is not alone among those who have fled for fear of the operation yet to be mounted by KDF alongside the Police Rapid Deployment Unit, the Kenya Police and Administration Police officers.

The Rift Valley Provincial Police Officer John M’bijjiwe said he had divided the sectors of security operations into two groups, one in Samburu and one in Turkana counties.

“I have just arrived from Lodwar and divided the sectors into two, one in Samburu county and the other one in Turkana. I am going to meet with the commanders on the ground,” said M’bijjiwe.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere had earlier claimed that the buck stops with the commander on the ground. The two groups are expected to reinforce the operation of KDF who were deployed after a security meeting chaired by President Kibaki.

The soldiers, who are now camping in Lokichar in Turkana East, are set to begin their operations anytime. Suguta has claimed many lives both from Samburu and Turkana.

The Standard
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