Locals in bandit-prone areas reject proposed peace committees

Kitui residents living along the banditry prone border with Tana River County have opposed the idea to form peace committees as proposed by Eastern and Coast regional commissioners on Wednesday.

The residents said it was not practical to discuss peace with an armed group and demanded that camel herders from across the border be drive out.

The regional commissioner for Eastern Isaiah Nakoru and his coast region counterpart John Elungata had proposed peace committees composed of elders among a raft of other measures as a way of forestalling peace along the porous border.

The two led a contingent of security teams drawn from the two counties to meet the residents and local leaders at Ukasi in Kitui County in order to quell the rising tensions following recent killings.

They proposed that teams of elders from both Kitui and Tana River counties be established to broker peace between the warring communities as well as discuss ways of utilising the dwindling water and pasture resources.

“The elders will be tasked to broker peace between the two communities as a way of finding lasting solution to the problem,” said Nakoru.

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He warned that herders who invade private farms and destroy crops will be arrested and charged. Nakoru also promised a thorough mop up to ensure herders who possess illegal arms are disarmed.

However the communities living at Ngomeni, Ukasi and Kasiluni rejected the idea of peace committees, saying that the only way out was for the herders to be driven back to their counties of origin.

"How can we have any negotiations with armed bandits who have already invaded our , killed our people and driven us out? We are living in the bush, our children are sick, we have no food,” said Mary Mwendwa from Kasiluni village.

The residents blamed the national government for paying lip service to the long standing insecurity issue along the border which has resulted to tens of deaths of locals.

They also alleged that area chiefs were collecting money from the herders in order to allow them graze thousands of their animals on the Kitui side.

“The security meeting achieved nothing, we are not satisfied. The only thing we want is to have the illegal herders and their animals driven out. You cannot have peace with armed people,” noted Itandi Wambua from Mandongoi, another banditry prone area.

Mr Elungata the regional commissioner for coast said herders from North Eastern Kenya were causing trouble across the border in Kitui County adding that security measures had been put up in Tana River county to prevent the  armed herders from using the neighbouring county as their base for attacks in Kitui.

“We have criminal elements from North Eastern Kenya who pass through Tana River to perpetrate criminal activities in Kitui. This is being seriously addressed,” Elungata said.

Last week a villager tending to his livestock was gunned down near his homestead in Kasiluni prompting as mass exodus of the locals from their homes.

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Eastern and Coast regional commissionersTana River County