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Chilling journey to bandit-prone Baringo North

Rift Valley
 KDF soldiers escort the convoy carrying the body of the late Joseph Kibet, Head Teacher of Kagir Primary School, along the Chemoe-Kagir road for his burial ceremony at Kagir village in Baringo North on February 29, 2024. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

We knew the journey to Kagir in Baringo North would be long and blood-curdling, but we were not deterred.

We set off on a high note, with laughter constantly interrupting small talk, perhaps to mask the uncertainty ahead.

From Nakuru town, we stopped at Marigat Town and proceeded to Loruk centre along the Marigat Chemolingot road.

We had to catch up with the funeral convoy of Kagir Primary School head teacher Thomas Kibet.

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

Our contact person kept calling to warn us that the route we were taking was not safe and advised we should join the convoy as they were being escorted by security personnel. We caught up with the convoy a few minutes later.

Soothing music characterised the journey, it was not until we took the Kagir-Chemoe route that the presence of police officers intensified.

The road meanders down the hill, giving a clear view of the beautiful area. The convoy made several stopovers and the security personnel comprising of Kenya Defence Forces and Rapid Deployment Unit kept alighting from their vehicles to the bush and back.

Creepy silence made us lower the music in the car. Here not even the chirping of birds could be heard.

In some instances, the officers walked up to a kilometre before issuing a signal to the convoy to proceed.

Locals conversant with the route pointed to various directions on top of the hills, which they claimed were home to the bandits terrorising them.

Perhaps, we thought, the bandits chose the spot to monitor any peculiar movements.

The bandits unleash terror even in the presence of highly trained officers. Daring they are, that they even lay an ambush in broad daylight.

The security personnel use high-tech equipment to survey the area, including binoculars and drones.

After a three-hour drive, the convoy made its way to the home of the teacher.

The funeral service went on well though it was rushed. Later, at around 2pm, Baringo leaders led by Governor Benjamin Cheboi arrived. Two choppers landed at Kagir Primary School playground.

At exactly 3.34pm Baringo North MP Joseph Makilap while introducing the leaders who had attended the burial made an announcement in a coded language.

“They have said you finish and leave, there is something,” he said.

It wasn’t clear whether he got the information from a police officer, or he received a call or a text message. What followed was a rushed address by the leaders and at exactly 4.15pm the body of the slain teacher was taken to the gravesite.

Most mourners did not follow the family to the grave site. The leaders also left the home hurriedly.

Minutes later the event was over and it was time to leave. A warning was issued that the vehicles were to leave in a convoy. No one was allowed to leave alone.

After the burial locals started scrambling for space in a police lorry that was on standby while others boarded the hearse that had carried the body of the teacher and the journey started. At least four Land Cruisers led the convoy.

The convoy of over ten vehicles escorted by a contingent of armed security personnel stopped hardly three kilometers from the home of the teacher after the burial.

For over an hour, mourners who had attended the burial waited for a signal to continue with their journey.

The waiting at the banks of River Suguta ended with a directive to take a different route after the Kagir-Chemoe route was declared impassable.

Officers had failed to repulse suspected bandits who had taken cover in the bush along the route.

From a distance, an exchange of fire could be heard. At around 5.45pm vehicles were redirected to take one of the longest route-Kagir-Yatia road.

Initially, vehicles ferrying mourners were to use the Kagir-Chemoe route and connect to the Chemolingot-Marigat road.

Ronald Kandie, a resident, said President William Ruto had promised to restore security in the area.

Kandie wondered whether the president was getting the correct information on the insecurity. He noted that bandits continue to terrorise locals even as the operation continues.

“Tell us whether you are getting the wrong briefs on the insecurity in the region or you have an interest in the area and have us displaced. Tell us,” said Kandie.

He said the leaders visiting the area should go there by road to experience the problems locals go through.

Last week, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki said the government would bolster security in the region.

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