Residents warned to surrender guns or be disarmed by force

Security personnel at the scene of a bandit attack at Kapkondot in Marakwet West. The Government is preparing for a massive disarmament operation in Kerio Valley. [File, Standard]
The Government is preparing for a massive security operation to mop up illegal guns in Kerio Valley where more than 30 people have been killed in the past three months.

The operation comes barely two months after more than 3,000 firearms in the hands of national police reservists in the region were withdrawn.

  Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya announced the imminent disarmament on Tuesday, warning that it will be “firm and painful”.

Addressing chiefs in Kitale, Mr Natembeya said counties targeted in the operation include Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia and Samburu.

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He asked leaders in regions earmarked for the operation to persuade residents to surrender illegal firearms. “It will be painful but we have to do it for the sake of innocent Kenyans.

These guns are the root cause of banditry and are being used to fuel communal conflicts. We have to remove them and restore peace,” he said.

 More than 700 people have fled their homes in the region after a series of raids by armed bandits that left behind a trail of death and livestock losses. Leaders have criticised the Government for disarming police reservists, saying it made residents sitting ducks for roaming bandits. The leaders have been piling pressure on Interior Security Cabinet Secre

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tary Fred Matiang’i to rescind the decision. But Natembeya defended the disarmament saying some rogue police reservists were behind the insecurity in the region.

 “Some of the reservists have been misusing their firearms to engage in banditry and other criminal activities,” he said.

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He denied that the Government was withdrawing police reservists from the region, saying it was overhauling how they operate.

“The Government will relook into the entire process of hiring and arming police reservists to strengthen security,” said Natembeya.

But this has not convinced leaders from the region who have been demanding that the Government either returns firearms to police reservists or posts more police officers. “Without police reservists, our people will be exposed to greater security risks,” said Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen. Meanwhile, tension remained high in Kapedo village after suspected bandits fired at pupils playing in a school playground in Kapedo Mixed Primary on Tuesday.

According to the school’s head teacher, Francis Ekaale, the bandits shot from a nearby hill. No one was injured in the incident although one pupil had his shirt grazed by a bullet.

At Chemoe village in Baringo North, armed bandits made away with 30 goats and 11 cattle. Bartabwa ward rep Reuben Chepsongol called on Mr Matiang’i to intervene and ensure security is restored.

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