Disquiet as police intensify disarmament drive

Operation launched to flush out bandits along the borders of three North Rift counties. [iStockphoto]

Disquiet has rocked Kerio Valley as a disarmament operation launched 18 days ago to flush out bandits along the borders of three North Rift counties intensifies.

The operation, led by the General Service Unit (GSU), started moments after a security meeting chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i in Tot, Marakwet East.

It covers parts of Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo and West Pokot counties, a region that was turned into a battlefield by bandits, resulting in the death of at least 115 people since August last year.

But locals expressed displeasure over the manner in which the operation is being conducted in parts of Marakwet East.

On Friday, residents of Kaben, mainly women and children, fled their homes after the officers stormed the village, shooting in the air several times as it pursued individuals suspected to be in possession of illegal firearms. Yesterday, local elders and a team of religious leaders decried what they termed as use of excessive force in the disarmament operation.

The team said it was seeking an audience with top security commanders leading the operation for dialogue, adding that several women and children spent nights in the cold for fear of being caught up in another round of pursuit.

Matiang’i’s announcement on May 8 came a day after Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Maalim Mohammed imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in parts of the three troubled counties, just days after three primary school children were shot dead by suspected bandits.

The CS ordered a 21-day operation in the area that has not known peace since June last year. Last week, a man and his son were arrested with 76 bullets and empty magazines for AK-47 and G-3 rifles.