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Insecurity wave that rocked North Rift and left death, pain in its wake

 Police officers deployed to flash out bandits in Arabal location in Baringo south patrolling at Kasiela village on December 28,2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The sounds of gunfire, death, and cattle rustling defined the lives of locals in the bandit-prone areas of the North Rift.

More than 30 people died in Baringo County and livestock stolen by bandits. Families also fled their homes.

"I never imagined that I would be leaving my birthplace not because of war but because of fear of losing life to banditry," Ms Mary Targok, a resident of Kasiela, told The Standard.

In February, some schools in Baringo South were deserted due to insecurity. Stephen Chepngetich, another resident, said pupils relocated to other schools, with the fate of others not known.

"It is unfortunate that Kasiela Primary School, which is adjacent to the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) base was closed," he says.

Baringo County Commissioner Abdirisack Jaldesa regrets that schools were closed despite the presence of security officers, revealing that the parents had run away due to insecurity. He agrees that bandits were taking advantage of the rugged terrain to attack.

The situation, says Jaldesa, has since changed, due to a security operation in the area. The commissioner said some locals in Baringo South have returned to their homes, assuring them of security.

The perennial attacks within the area led to the formation of more than 10 units with over 3,000 security officers deployed yet officers ended up being the targets.

In February, the then Cabinet Secretary of Interior Fred Matiang'i sacked some local chiefs and ordered a probe into the insecurity wave.

Allan Krop, a reformed cattle rustler, blamed the persistent drought as the genesis of the conflicts.

Krop explained that the areas of Arabal and Mukutani were arable, making it easier for cattle rustlers to target the place to feed their animals.

"Most places captured by bandits have something valuable to them such as water, grass and maybe livestock favorable," he said.

Baringo Woman Rep Florence Jematia has been vocal in the fight against insecurity. Her utterances landed her in court where she was charged with incitement. Nominated senator Jackson Kosgei during a recent homecoming ceremony in Baringo said that the issues would be best tackled when all leaders join hands.

"Before the government rounds up these people carrying illegal firearms, they should start with the leaders in the search for solutions,'' he said.

Baringo South MP Charles Kamuren called upon the government to fully disarm communities.

National Cohesion and Integration Commissioner Sam Kona, who has been involved in a peace mission in the North Rift, believes the conflict will end but advises governments to put efforts into schooling and developing the region.

"Every conflict has substantive issues that must be addressed either by the people themselves or by the authorities responsible. What has made the situation dire is the high level of armaments with sophisticated weapons among communities," Kona said.

Kona added that the region has been faced with a long culture of impunity where the law is broken by raiders who get away with it repeatedly.

Commissioner Jaldesa says youths within affected areas should be accorded equal opportunities like being enrolled in the National Youth Service programmes.

Security agencies say lack of goodwill and cooperation among pastoralist communities has frustrated efforts to arrest violence perpetrators.

And if arrested, it becomes impossible to prosecute them as witnesses will not avail themselves in court, compromising the cases.

The issue of inefficient mobile telephone communication network connectivity in the area is another challenge.

Colonel (Rtd) Moses Kwonyike, a resident of Ng'aratuko in Baringo North and a security expert, says that the dynamics of the attacks have changed with women and children being targeted.

"The government should pick chiefs from affected communities to contain the situation. Also forceful schooling should be implemented within the conflict zones and construction of water pans encouraged to reduce rifts," he said.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner Mohamed Maalim said peace had been restored courtesy of a security operation and dusk to dawn curfew imposed in June.

Maalim has made a number of tours to Baringo and encouraged dialogue towards peacebuilding within communities.

"We have made tours in the area and used dialogue in preaching peace and giving amnesty for people to surrender firearms," Maalim said.

Maalim said 130 illegal firearms and 500 bullets were confiscated during the operation along the Kerio Valley belt. He said 80 National Police Reservists (NPR) have complimented security efforts.

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