Leaders seek answers as Kerio Valley attacks, killings continue

The burial of two sisters Consolata Jebiwot, 16, and Martha Jeruto, 18, who were shot dead during a raid by bandits in Ketut Village, Marakwet East. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Tension is high in Kerio Valley following the killing of eight people in a series of deadly attacks in January.

In the latest attack on Sunday, suspected bandits shot dead three people, including a police reservist, in Koibirir location, Elgeyo Marakwet County.

It started with the killing of two sisters in Ketut village, Marakwet East Sub-county on January 1.

The attacks have sparked outrage, with leaders calling for disarmament and deployment of the Kenya Defence Forces.

A week ago, another group of armed assailants shot dead a road construction worker attached to a Chinese Company in Chesegon, West Pokot County.

The current wave of attacks in Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties is said to be retaliatory, with two warring communities living along the Kerio Valley engaging in deadly counter-attacks.

On January 18, police in Pokot Central Sub-county in West Pokot County reported that assailants suspected to be from a neighbouring county raided Akiriamet village in Lebei Sub-location near the border with Elgeyo Marakwet.

According to the police, the assailants killed a driver for China Highway Construction Company, which is building the Marich-Tot-Kolowa road, and injured two other men.

"The incident occurred at Akiriamet area near the border of Kaben location and 150 goats are still missing due to the attack. The injured people were Dennis Longurianyang, 28, and Korpatagh Lortareng, 26. The third person was a driver for China Highway Contractor Company who was confirmed dead," said the police report.

The attack at Koibirir is reported to have been a revenge attack following the Chesegon raid.

Leaders from the two counties condemned the attacks and called for urgent measures to curb the upsurge of banditry attacks, which are happening barely three weeks after the deployment of over 300 police reservists just hours after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki toured the troubled valley on December 3.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Wisley Rotich said bandits roaming the Kerio Valley have defied all measures put in place by the government to arrest the menace and continue to kill, maim and steal from locals.

"We have tried all strategies, including dialogue, signing of a peace accord, leaders' meeting, security meetings, ultimatums, peace meetings, peace committees, sports, joint agriculture at Tot-Koloa, joint grazing, evangelism by religious groups, deployment of police reservists, deployment of a drone (training ongoing), having police presence (16 stations) and even bringing the entire security docket leadership to the Kerio Valley," Governor Rotich said in a statement.

He added: "We have criminals in all communities. It will be a game-changer if we call them out and isolate them from the good people. We should criminalise them and make it shameful to be a killer or cattle rustler. Let's not glorify them and continue suffering."

In a statement, West Pokot leaders led by Governor Simon Kachapin said all the warring communities had suffered deaths and loss of livestock. He asked the government to deploy police reservists in equal numbers across the affected counties.

"Conduct a clear and comprehensive disarmament exercise involving both communities. Deploy more police officers to ensure peace and stability prevail in the area," the leaders said in a joint statement.

Marakwet West MP Timothy Toroitich asked President William Ruto to declare areas along the borders of West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo war zones, and order deployment of special forces to rein in the bandits.

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