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Irony of tight security at burial of blind teacher killed by bandits

 KDF soldiers take guard during the burial ceremony of the late Kagir Primary school Head Teacher Joseph Kibet. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

When Thomas Kibet, the Kagir Primary School head teacher, was alive, he spent most of his time crying out for security to be beefed up in Baringo North constituency where incidents of banditry are rampant. 

Since his childhood, members of his community have been victims of banditry. 

In fact, at the age of 9, he lost his eyesight during a bandit attack in his village. A bullet hit him on the head as he looked after his father's cows.  

The incident changed his life forever. He lived without eyesight and four decades later he was felled by a bandit's bullet. 

Kibet and pupils at his school would have lessons interrupted so many times by bandits who attacked at will. 

His cries to the authorities to have security beefed up fell on deaf ears. 

Show of might

Ironically, yesterday at his funeral, it was a show of might as a heavy contingent of security personnel armed to the teeth escorted his remains from the mortuary to the homestead for burial. 

For motorists using the Chemoe-Kigir Road, the convoy that comprised military-armored vehicles could easily be confused with that of a Very Important Person. 

Security personnel including officers from the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), Rapid Deployment Unit, the General Service Unit, and National Police Service, with their guns ready, made up the convoy that stretched for about a kilometre. 

 KDF soldiers escort the convoy carrying the body of the late Kagir Primary School Headteacher Joseph Kibet along the Chemoe - Kagir road for a burial ceremony at Kagir village. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The hawk-eyed officers made several stop-overs along the Chemoe-Kagir road to inspect the route. 

They would occasionally stop the convoy, inspect the road using a drone and binoculars before giving a signal to the convoy to proceed in a slow pace. 

As the convoy proceeded, some of the heavily armed officers would alight from their vehicles and take cover in the bushes. 

Others walked alongside the vehicles with their fingers on gun triggers, ready to open fire at any provocation. 

Occasionally, the officers would fire in the bush as a sign of scaring bandits who could be hiding.  

For over an hour, the convoy snaked its way through the valley to the teacher's home where neighbours were waiting to receive his body for the final send off. 

At the home, a contingent of security officers surrounded it, and held strategic positions around the compound with their backs to the mourners.  

It was claimed that suspected bandits had earlier allegedly gone to the home and harassed mourners before security personnel were deployed. 

Locals said those who were digging the grave had to scamper for safety before the criminals were repulsed. 

A Rapid Deployment Unit lorry ferried some of the locals to and from Kagir to attend the burial. 

Kibet was shot dead by killed on February 10, 2024, while on his way to Kipcherere Secondary School for his child's academic day. 

A post-mortem examination report indicated that the teacher died of multiple gunshot wounds.  

Born in 1972, Kibet while herding his father's livestock in 1978 was shot by suspected bandits leading to his blindness. 

He attended Thika school for the blind in the Year 1982 to 1990 where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Examination.  

He then joined Thika School for the Blind from 1991 to 1994 and later proceeded to Asumbi Teachers' College from 1997 to 1999. 

Kibet's wife, while eulogising her husband, said the gap left was huge. 

"You didn't have much but we always felt like we had everything. You didn't leave millions in your bank account but you left a legacy worth much more," said Rebecca in a tribute to her husband. 

 Baringo residents engage police in running battles at Kabarnet Town. Police lobed teargas to disperse residents who protested over rising insecurity following the killing of Kagir's headteacher over the weekend. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

Villagers were amazed by the security arrangement at the burial, wondering where all those security officers were when Kibet was attacked and killed. 

"If only they offered that kind of security when he was alive, things here would have been different. He would now be alive here looking after his children," a woman was heard lamenting in the crowd. 

As the funeral ceremony proceeded, Baringo leaders led by Governor Benjamin Cheboi, Senator William Cheptumo, Woman Representative Florence Jematia arrived in a helicopter. 

MPs Joseph Makilap (Baringo North), Charles Kamuren (Baringo South) and Reuben Kiborek (Mogotio) were also present. 

Appeal to Ruto

The Reverend Richard Ngetuny of AIC Mochongoi region called on President William Ruto to deploy enough security personnel to the area.  

Ngetuny appealed to Ruto to tour the region to restore security in the area. 

"Baringo is bleeding, Baringo is crying. Say a word Mr President," he said. 

Kuppet official Sammy Chelanga said the day of the burial of the teacher was to be prize-giving day and celebration for good performance by Kagir Primary School learners.  

He said he will push to have teachers in the insecurity prone area assured of their security. 

"We saw the leaders fly and I was driving, I asked myself whether we were in Kenya. It is really unfortunate, it is really sad, drones have to be used and security personnel go before and after us. Leader listen to the people," he said. 

He said he will present the issues raised by the locals about teachers to the Teachers Service Commission and ensure they are implemented. He said the teachers must be assured of their security. 

Jematia described the late teacher as a hardworking man who was always ready to serve the community.  

She said they were in a meeting with Interior CS Kithure Kindiki and asked to know how many people must die to have the issue of insecurity addressed. She noted that it is unfortunate that those being killed are those advocating change in Baringo. 

"I asked the toughest questions and sought to know from the CS why the government is using lots of money to conduct a mass operation while the mastermind is known. The government should look into this issue critically. Why are people being killed," she said. 

She said women are the most affected by banditry. 

Makilap said no leader wants his people killed and urged the locals to cease from blaming the President. He said the locals should allow them to go and do all they can to ensure the insecurity issue is addressed. 

Cheptumo, who is the chairperson of the National Security Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, promised he will support the family as the late teacher served as chairperson of National Government-Constituency Development Fund while he was the MP for 15 years. 

"We have had meetings with the president and discussed difficult issues concerning this area. We have had police reservists reinstated and security roads are being constructed. We had a meeting with CS Kindiki and soon you will see change," he said. 

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