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State now told to adopt carrot and stick method over Kapedo insecurity

By Julius Chepkwony | January 21st 2021 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya.

Thirty-year-old Muya Harun vividly recalls the events of April 7, 2013, like they happened yesterday.

Muya’s mother was killed in a bloody ambush by suspected bandits in Kapedo, who are yet to be identified and brought to book. His world, he said, crumbled and although he has been trying to come to terms with the loss, the recurring attacks over the years keep reminding him of her death.

Muya said the recent killing of General Service Unit Operation Commander Emadau Tebakol has raised tensions in the area.

Residents, he added, have branded the area 'Darfur' because of the incessant gunfire and the State's inability to restore peace. One week before the officer was killed, over 20 houses were torched, one person killed and three others injured.

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With Kapedo under siege, four schools were shut last week and residents claim they are running out of food because the road to Marigat through Ameyan is impassable.

"We are living at the mercy of bandits. They have taken control of the area and strike anytime they wish, kill and maim. Women and children cannot fetch water from the river or collect firewood unless they are accompanied by security personnel," said Muya.

Residents claimed there was more to the attacks than meets the eye, saying cattle rustling should be ruled out because they no longer have many cows and goats to attract rustlers' attention.

Muya said the attacks are more frequent in January when it does not rain. A few of the reasons advanced for the insecurity include lack of resources, unresolved boundary issues and failure by the government to stamp its authority in the region.

East of Kapedo are hot springs that are the source of River Suguta. The springs provide a permanent source of water even during the dry season. Pasture is also in plenty around the springs, a nearby airstrip and the surrounding areas of Solar and Kasarani.

According to locals, these are some of the most dangerous areas. More than 20 police officers were killed in Kasarani in an ambush in 2014. A police lorry was later torched.

"You approach these areas and you will be repulsed by gunfire,” said Muya.

Justus Ekeno, the chairperson of Turkana community living in the diaspora, said unresolved boundary issues are a major cause of conflict.

"The government should address the issue once and for all to resolve it and peace will prevail," Mr Ekeno said, adding that illegal firearms have also fallen into the hands of rogues who use them to harm others.

Security experts, however, have squarely laid the blame of what is happening in Kapedo at the government's doorstep.

Geneva Centre for Africa Security and Strategic Studies President Simiyu Werunga said politics has also played a role in the insecurity.

In an interview with The Standard, Mr Werunga said the government has failed to do what is required.

"As long as the two warring communities continue to lay claim to the area, the conflict will never end. The Kapedo issue is about politics and until you deal with politicians, the elders and the chief, you are wasting your time."

Werunga said the government should not talk of disarmament at the moment. "The locals will hand over 10 firearms to blackmail the Government but in real sense keep dozens."

He blamed the government for not interacting with the people and allowing amorphous militia groups to take control of the area. "Until the government says this is our space, the conflict will never end."

He continued: "Kapedo is not about using a mortar; use a carrot and stick. Deal with the issue of demarcation of grazing land and who owns it. Resettle people and then use the stick to deal with the bandits."

Werunga said security personnel who are deployed to the area should not be allowed to overstay and get too familiar with residents.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, however, disputed the claims that security agencies have failed in their mission.

Kapedo, he said, "is not a hard nut to crack".

"We have not had a real attempt to crack it. If we fail this time round, we will have a brief and say we have not been able to crack it. We will deal with them and ensure the rule of law is entrenched,” said Natembeya.

Heavily armed security personnel have been deployed to the area with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i talking tough over lawlessness, saying the government will be firm on bandits at the border of Baringo and Turkana counties.


Emadau Tebakol Kapedo Bandits
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