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VAS

Painful tales of police reservists living at the mercy of bandits

NATIONAL
By Kennedy Gachuhi | October 12th 2021

Simon Mwangi, a reservist on his hospital bed at Unison Hospital in Rumuruti after he was shot in the hip by bandits on October 5, 2021. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

Robert Lopem Ekaran, 33, was last week laid to rest at his home in Ngarenarok, Ol Moran in an emotional send-off by people who considered him their guardian.

In attendance was his ten-day-old baby, who could not understand the gravity of the event as she innocently stared at her mother’s teary face. She only knew her father for four days.

Ekaran, a National Police Reservist (NPR) was ambushed by bandits near Tumaini School in Ngarenarok on October 1 alongside his partner Charles Lokori, 32.

“We had spent the night guarding the school. In the morning we decided to walk to the neighbouring homes and check on elders who had returned,” said Lokori, a father of two.

While walking across the open school grounds, armed bandits taking cover in an adjacent maize plantation opened fire on the pair forcing them to duck and fire back.

“A bullet cut off two fingers on Ekaran’s right hand and another lodged into his lower abdomen. One bullet was lodged in my thigh. I fired into the plantation until I ran out of bullets,” said Lokori.

“I crawled while dragging Ekaran into a nearby plantation and called for backup. Construction workers came to our aid before the police arrived and took us to hospital,” added Lokori.

After three days at the Nyahururu County Hospital, efforts to resuscitate Ekaran by a team of doctors proved futile and he died. Lokori was discharged the following day.

“It is painful that the Government’s response is always late despite intelligence that the bandits are approaching our farmlands,” said Ekaran’s brother Reuben Elupe.

Lokori explained that this was their first month as NPRs since the Government returned their guns after surrendering them back four years ago.

“We were picked as NPRs in 2017 and served for a year before we were disarmed. Our guns were returned on August 29, 2021, after the security situation deteriorated,” he said.

Medics attend to Police Reservists at Unison hospital in Rumuruti, October 6, 2021. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard]

Lokori added: “There is no pay for the work we do or compensation for injury in line of duty. We have families to feed and at times have to patrol all day and night.”

On October 5, William Lodupua, John Ekamiti and Simon Mwangi who are NPRs attached to Sosian ranch were waylaid by bandits near Tingamara area in an attack that left them nursing serious bullet wounds and is currently admitted at Unison Hospital in Rumuruti.

The three had gone to collect more food supplies at Posta trading cente riding on a motorcycle at around 5pm.

“It was around 5:30pm. Mwangi who was riding the bike spotted some stones placed across the road. As he was alerting us, bullets started flying towards us from five directions,” said Lodupua.

Ekamiti who was seated in the middle was shot twice as Mwangi’s adrenaline made him to move the motorcycle at top speed. He escaped with a bullet running through his lower back.

“I held strongly on Mwangi after bullets hit me on the right hand and left leg. Lodupua continued to fire back at our attackers until we got to safer ground. People came to our rescue and rushed us to hospital,” said Ekamiti.

Cannot sit

Mwangi, 28, survived the attack with a bullet wound running through from his left hip to the right hip.

“I can no longer sit. Since I was admitted I have been spending days and nights sleeping face down. It is painful. I was born and found my mother crying about banditry. I am now an armed NPR and still at even greater risk,” said Mwangi.

“I don’t know how my life will be with this kind of an injury at my age. Being an NPR is being at the frontline. It is putting our life on the line,” said Mwangi.

When the attacks don’t land on the NPRs, they land on the homes as was the case for John Kibeya and Peter Kigwero who had joined the police in early morning patrols on September 10.

Police officers at Sosian Ranch in Laikipia County. [File, Standard]

Kibeya and Kigwero’s houses were among five other homes that were razed down by bandits at Dam Samaki area at around 7:30am on the fateful day.

“I had moved my family to Ol Moran. While we were on patrol in the neighbouring villages, we saw smoke billowing from our houses. I lost my house, household goods worth over Sh250,000 and 38 bags of dry cereals,” said Kibeya.

Kigweru who was only left with a pair of pants and his NPR uniforms expressed his frustrations on how the Government was handling bandits with velvet gloves.

“It is heartbreaking when bandits shoot innocent people dead and the Government only talks of repulsing them. This has encouraged them to sustain their attacks knowing the Government can do very little,” said Kigweru.

The reservists added that whenever they join the police on patrols, they are placed in front because they know the area better than the officers who are outsiders.

Simon Eturen, who is in charge of NPRs in Laikipia West said that their commitment and fearless battle with the bandits has made them a major target.

“NPRs are doing a great job in trying to restore security and rid the area of bandits. Being part of the community makes us the first target,” said Eturen.

He added that while the police retreat back to their camps and stations, NPRs are left within the community and it is during such times that the bandits descend on the villages.

“We are the closest and first responders to attacks. A village may have one or two NPRs who may have to face off with dozens of bandits before the police arrive,” said Eturen.

Once normalcy is restored, the Government withdraws its officers from the disturbed region giving room for the bandits to make an easy re-entry in times of conflict.

“We need the Government to add more NPRs in the region to ensure there is swift and sufficient response in the event of an attack. Some NPRs guard multiple villages. This year alone nine NPRs have been sustained bullet injuries,” said Eturen.

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