Banditry: Families heed directive to leave homes

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Abdi Hassan during Sunday's tour to assess the progress of security operation against bandits. [File, Standard]

Over 500 families in Samburu County's Lolmolok and Longewan areas have followed a government directive to leave 27 bandit-infested areas within 24 hours.

On Sunday Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said the government has decided to upmarket the security operation against bandits which will "require new measures".

He added that the measures are designed to "inflict maximum pain on criminals" and eliminate the banditry threat, which has already been declared a national emergency.

In Samburu county, the areas of Ltungai Conservancy, Longewan, Nasuur, Lochokia and Lekadaar Escarpments; Lolmolok Caves, Pura Valley, Malaso Escarpment and Suguta Valley were declared as scenes of crime.

On Monday, after the expiry of the ultimatum at 8 am, The Standard witnessed a mass exodus of civilians in the areas mentioned by the CS.

They, however, were at loss as to how they would sustain their lives away from their homes. 

"We are obeying government orders but we do not know where were are going. It is true we have suffered in the hands of the bandits, who have killed our people and now the operation has commenced [and] we are moving to Sukuta Mamar trading centre where there is peace,” Joel Yaya, a Longewan resident, said.

Yaya, who moved with his family, said his only prayer and hope is to see the banditry contained.

"We support the government initiative. We want the security officers to succeed in ending the menace and bring lasting peace," he said.

Yaya said although it was going to be difficult for most of them to stay away from their homes, it was worthwhile to ensure peace.

Malaso Escarpment in Samburu County. The area is a suspected bandit hideout. [File, Standard]

Lochilo Lepario, his neighbour, said his people have been forced to run and abandoned places they had known as home for years.

“We are abandoning our homes. The bandits are attacking and killing people. We bury people every day. This operation should be directed to the communities that are attacking and killing us."

Helen Lekutambiwa said she was following a government directive even though she doesn’t agree with it.

"I'm with my children as we are in fear of the operation and we are not certain of where we are heading. The drought has arrived, hunger has gripped us, and we lack food to feed the children, many of whom are pregnant women," she said.

MCA Sukuta Longewan and Lolmolok residents, according to James Leleruk, have decided to leave for fear of what will happen to them.

Wilson Lesuuda, the secretary of Samburu county, backed the government directive, saying the people had suffered greatly at the hands of the bandits.

"We have lost lives, livestock, and some people are still missing," he said, adding that the operation was a good thing to do if it would put an end to banditry for good.

Korkon Hills, Tandere Valley, and Silale Gorge residents in Tiaty, Baringo County, were adamant about moving.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki. [File, Standard]

Kevin Yolee, a first-year university student majoring in Electronic Engineering, said his parents were trapped inside Silale Hills and were unwilling to leave.

On Monday, while communicating with his parents, he said they were resisting the order because they had nowhere else to go.

"As much as the order is in place, I'm not sure where my parents will go; my father has seven wives and 42 children; it's really difficult; I pity them; there are no schools where I come from, which has encouraged this banditry," he said.

He said most of his siblings are young and that moving to safer grounds will be difficult for them.

"Drought has had an impact on our livestock. We are unable to transport them out of the area. They will perish on the way," he said.

He noticed that some of his brothers had left the family home with some of the family livestock in search of water and grazing fields, leaving the younger brother with his parents.

"Moving out of the village necessitates energetic men, which we currently lack at home," Yolee said.

Other places mapped are Mukogodo Forest; Kamwenje, Warero and Ndonyoriwo; Lekuruki Hills, Losos and Kiape Caves and Sieku Valley in Laikipia county.