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Fresh attacks leave 4 dead in Saku, northern ‘evil triangle’

By Wainaina Ndung’u and Ali Abdi | June 15th 2020

Kenya’s lawless north, the evil triangle comprising Samburu, Marsabit and Turkana counties, yesterday lived up to its infamous billing of spilling not only blood of local herdsmen, but that of senior government officials and politicians.

On a day top Eastern Region administration and security officials including Eastern Region Coordinator Isaiah Nakoru escaped death by a whisker in a freak police chopper accident on their way to a peace meeting, four more lives of herdsmen were lost in Saku Constituency, Marsabit.

The four were heading to water their animals at Jica borehole when gunmen wearing jungle uniforms emerged from nearby thickets and sprayed them with bullets at Kukuto area at around 10am.

Marsabit Central Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Benjamin Maathi confirmed the incident that took place while top security committee members led by County Commissioner Evans Achoki were in Sololo in Moyale sub-County to welcome Eastern and North Eastern region security bosses for a peace meeting.

Elected leaders led by Marsabit Governor Mohamud Ali, MPs Ali Rasso (Saku) and Qalicha Gufu (Moyale) were already in Sololo when the Kenya Police chopper, piloted by Inspector Peter Kemboi and assisted by Jacinta Akorot, crashed at Kaithe area on the outskirts of Meru town, prompting the meeting to be called off.

The lucky escape for Nakoru and the other officials, who included Regional Police Commander Lydia Ligami, Regional Criminal Investigations Commander Jonah Kirui and Regional Head of National Intelligence Service (NIS) Gilbert Magut, brought memories of the high count of senior Kenyan leaders who have died while in missions to look for elusive peace in the evil triangle.

They include former Foreign Affairs Minister Bonaya Godana, who perished in a helicopter crash in April 2006 at the Marsabit Hill heading for a peace mission alongside Assistant Minister Mirugi Kariuki and MPs Titus Ngoyoni (Laisamis), Gulacha Galgalo (Moyale) and Abdi Sasura (Saku).

Others in that ill-fated crash were Kirinyaga Diocese Anglican Assistant Bishop William Waqo, East African Legislative Assembly member Abdullahi Adan and District Commissioner Peter King’ola.

Earlier, Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Ishmael Chelang’a died on July 27, 1996 while enroute to the area for a peace meeting in a chopper alongside another Kirinyaga Anglican diocese assistant bishop Andrew Tule.

First occurrence

The earliest recorded killing of a prominent Kenyan pursuing elusive peace for the area that extends southwards to Isiolo County was on June 28, 1963 when assassins believed to be secessionists sprayed Isiolo District Commissioner Daudi Wabera and chief Galma Dido with bullets while on their way back from government duty in Sericho.

Other than the high toll of senior government officials and leaders who have died in the triangle of death, thousands of residents have lost their lives in the area in recurrent tribal conflicts that are usually provoked by cattle rustling, competition for pasture and water as well as territorial aggression between the pastoral communities.

In November 2012, more than 40 Kenya Police officers and reservists were killed in the Suguta Valley near Baragoi while on a mission to recover stolen cattle. The young officers, many newly graduated, had been mobilised for an operation in an area whose terrain they had little knowledge of and were trapped in the valley by bandits and shot in a killing spree that shocked the country and has remained unresolved to date.

Saturday’s peace meeting was aimed at finding a solution to clashes between residents of Sololo and those from Wajir that had left two dead and another injured at Badan Arero last Tuesday.

Sagante/Jaldesa ward MCA Sora Katelo said the each of the herders sustained multiple gunshots.

Brutal killing

“They were killed in a merciless manner. Attackers used dozens of bullets to kill them,” said Katelo.

The politician blamed the security team that had ignored a report on an impending attack in the area. He said he made a report to top county security team including the NIS.

“I personally passed information that there would be an attack in my ward on Friday evening to four members of the county security committee, but they failed to take any action,” said Katelo.

The MCA claimed more than 100 militiamen, who were in jungle uniforms and heavily armed, had been transported to the ward to undertake organised killings.

He urged the security committee to send adequate police officers to be stationed in troubled areas of Saku.

The Saturday killings bring the death toll in volatile Marsabit to 11 in the last six days.

Last Monday, four youths riding home on a motorcycle in Songa from Marsabit town were sprayed with bullets and killed near the abandoned Badasa dam.

On Tuesday, a man was shot dead at Orendel in Saku and a day later, four young men riding a boda boda to ferry miraa were attacked at Badan Arero in Sololo by armed men. Two were killed and another injured.

Clashes in Saku have left more than 70 people dead since 2018, with leaders claiming it was political.

Last October, 13 people including three police officers were killed at Jaldesa, a settlement area surrounded by rich pasture. The area was attacked three times since December 2017.  A water supply station was burnt down and a borehole destroyed. Qubi Qalo and Gof Choba are other hotspots in Saku.

Meanwhile, Marsabit and Wajir leaders agreed to a cessation of conflict along their borders. Governor Ali met his Wajir counterpart Abdi Mohamud during the peace meeting at Badan Arero on Saturday.

North Eastern top security committee members led by Regional Coordinator Nicodemus Lelelana and county security team from Marsabit and Wajir were also in the meeting alongside MPs Gufu, Rasso and Adan Keynan (Eldas).

Others were Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Rashid Kassim (Wajir East), Ahmed Bashane (Tarbaj) and Bashir Bashane (Mandera North).

Governor Keynan said tribal fights portrayed pastoralists as ungovernable people.

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