Residents in six Rift Valley counties will wait longer to get back protection from the National Police Reservists as seven schools shut down in two counties following persistent banditry attacks.
Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mongo Chimwaga said the NPRs, who were last week disarmed for what State officials said was to pave way for registration of their firearms, will undergo thorough training and vetting before resuming work.
Mr Chimwaga said the fight against banditry has been left to police officers as the State begins scrutiny of NPRs in the six counties including West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia.
Speaking in Elgeyo Marakwet County during a security meeting in the wake of a series of banditry attacks in areas bordering the Kerio Valley triangle, Chimwaga confirmed that seven schools in Marakwet West and West Pokot have been closed as residents flee frequent attacks.
Hundreds of families fled the West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet border after banditry attacks that led to the killing of a GSU officer. Among the schools closed as reported by Chimwaga include Kamelei A, Kamelei B, Kalya, Tenderwa, Kabero and Liter Primary schools. At least 30 people have died since the beginning of this year, according to Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos.
Chimwaga said disarming of the NPRs was informed by complaints by members of the public that some of them were misusing their State-issued firearms to perpetuate banditry.
“Residents have told us that a few of the NPRs have bad conduct. We assure you that those who have tainted the image of good NPRs will be weeded out after the exercise,” Chimwaga said in Tot area in the troubled Kerio Valley on Friday evening.
He said Kolowa and Lomut markets in Baringo and West Pokot respectively have been shut down due to attacks. The regional commissioner said the recruitment process of NPR in the Kerio Valley triangle was rushed, leaving no room for proper training and vetting of recruits.
He said some NPRs hired in the early 1980s are still serving even though they have attained retirement age.
“I am sorry to say that when your leaders requested for NPRs in recent years, the process was rushed and there was lack of proper mechanism to vet new recruits. NPRs are part of the National Police Service (NPS). We want NPRs trained like all officers under the NPS,” said Mr Chimwaga.
He said the training and vetting of the NPRs will boost inter-county coordination between NPRs in the region.
“Today, some NPRs have reduced themselves into working for their ethnic communities and fighting rival communities and this dangerous in security management,” he said.
A tough-talking Chimwaga warned politicians from the troubled counties to stop interfering with security operations and leave it to security apparatus.
Secretary for Internal Security in the Ministry of Interior Moffat Kangi also warned politicians he claimed are uttering remarks that incite residents into ethnic clashes to restraint or face arrests.
Work with residents
Mr Kangi said the attacks rocking sections of North Rift counties are not inter-ethnic, claiming that it was a syndicate of armed gangs sponsored by wealthy livestock traders.
“The fight against banditry should be left to the police. No communities will be targeted in the operation, but no gang will be spared,” he said. Locals of the Kerio valley said the perennial fights have paralysed economic activities in the area.
Hellena Kolotot, a mother living in the troubled valley said: “The fights are worsening day by day and as women we have been left crying.”
She said locals can no longer go to Kolowa and Lomut markets where they traditionally trade with neighbouring communities.
Another resident, Wilson Kiptoo urged security agencies to work closely with residents to end the cattle rustling related attacks.
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