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Schools shut, residents court danger as armed bandits reign supreme

By Fred Kibor | Published Thu, February 15th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 14th 2018 at 23:13 GMT +3
Learners from schools in the Kerio Valley protest against insecurity in the region. [Eliud Kipsang, Standard]

Denis Kimutai, 10, writhes in pain as his father cautiously attempts to make him comfortable on his hospital bed at Kapsowar Mission Hospital in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The Standard Four pupil at Genesis Academy in Endo has his left hand and lower abdomen heavily bandaged.

ALSO READ: Boy, 10, shot in Kerio valley bandit attack

A bullet believed to have been shot from a G3 rifle pierced his hand and lodged in his abdomen. The bullet has since been removed, as well as part of the damaged intestines.

“My son was not herding cattle or anywhere near the battle but his crime was being in class studying hard to change his life and society. Why was he shot?” asked Alex Chepkonga, the boy’s father.

The boy’s fate illustrates how livelihoods in the bandit-prone Kerio Valley are affected by the rampant insecurity. More than 115 people have been killed since March 2016.

The skirmishes occasioned by cattle rustling and other criminal activities have not spared learning institutions. Many people have moved from their homes.

Dozens of schools in the region have been closed until the Government restores security.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) office in the region has instructed head teachers to close down schools for fear of further attacks.

“Unless you are bullet-proof, do not continue going to school. No school should remain open in Kerio Valley anymore,” said the Marakwet branch Knut executive secretary, John Cheberi.

He accused the Government of burying its head in the sand as the bloodletting continues unabated.

ALSO READ: Kerio Valley Development Authority to lay off 300 workers

“We have been told security is beefed up but nothing is done. Security officers are in their camps while police reservists are with herders in the grazing field, leaving schools unmanned,” said the unionist.

However, the Marakwet East sub-county director of education, Kimutai Chirchir, said Knut had no powers to close schools and insisted that all schools were under the watch of armed police reservists.

Institutions deserted

“The Government has done enough. All of us should join hands in seeking to get a lasting solution to insecurity instead of withdrawing our services. Knut should rescind its decision because it will bring more suffering,” Chirchir said.

When The Standard visited the region on Tuesday, all learning institutions were deserted. And even though the Government said police had been deployed to man the schools, no officer was in sight at the institutions visited.

Hundreds of learners from Kerio Valley held day-long protests to criticise the Government for its alleged inaction in quelling the skirmishes.

Carrying placards and twigs and chanting songs, the learners and teachers denounced violence as they walked more than 50 kilometres, braving the scorching sun before congregating at Tot.

ALSO READ: Ticking time bomb as scenic Kerio Valley becomes a deathtrap

Trizah Cherotich, a Standard Eight candidate at Chesawach Primary School, said gunfights were always interrupting learning.

Not far from Genesis Academy, Liter Girls’ Secondary School, at the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, has been turned into a battlefield.

Denis Kimutai, 10, writhes in pain as his father cautiously attempts to make him comfortable on his hospital bed at Kapsowar Mission Hospital in Elgeyo Marakwet County.

The Standard Four pupil at Genesis Academy in Endo has his left hand and lower abdomen heavily bandaged.

A bullet believed to have been shot from a G3 rifle pierced his hand and lodged in his abdomen. The bullet has since been removed, as well as part of the damaged intestines.

“My son was not herding cattle or anywhere near the battle but his crime was being in class studying hard to change his life and society. Why was he shot?” asked Alex Chepkonga, the boy’s father.

The boy’s fate illustrates how livelihoods in the bandit-prone Kerio Valley are affected by the rampant insecurity. More than 115 people have been killed since March 2016.

The skirmishes occasioned by cattle rustling and other criminal activities have not spared learning institutions. Many people have moved from their homes.

Dozens of schools in the region have been closed until the Government restores security.

ALSO READ: How a phone I bought from a pal landed me 7 years in prison

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) office in the region has instructed head teachers to close down schools for fear of further attacks.

“Unless you are bullet-proof, do not continue going to school. No school should remain open in Kerio Valley anymore,” said the Marakwet branch Knut executive secretary, John Cheberi.

He accused the Government of burying its head in the sand as the bloodletting continues unabated.

“We have been told security is beefed up but nothing is done. Security officers are in their camps while police reservists are with herders in the grazing field, leaving schools unmanned,” said the unionist.

However, the Marakwet East sub-county director of education, Kimutai Chirchir, said Knut had no powers to close schools and insisted that all schools were under the watch of armed police reservists.

Institutions deserted

“The Government has done enough. All of us should join hands in seeking to get a lasting solution to insecurity instead of withdrawing our services. Knut should rescind its decision because it will bring more suffering,” Chirchir said.

When The Standard visited the region on Tuesday, all learning institutions were deserted. And even though the Government said police had been deployed to man the schools, no officer was in sight at the institutions visited.

ALSO READ: Police launch probe into Kalonzo Musyoka home attack

Hundreds of learners from Kerio Valley held day-long protests to criticise the Government for its alleged inaction in quelling the skirmishes.

Carrying placards and twigs and chanting songs, the learners and teachers denounced violence as they walked more than 50 kilometres, braving the scorching sun before congregating at Tot.

Trizah Cherotich, a Standard Eight candidate at Chesawach Primary School, said gunfights were always interrupting learning.

Not far from Genesis Academy, Liter Girls’ Secondary School, at the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties, has been turned into a battlefield.


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