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Fred Matiang’i peace caravan tours troubled Marakwet

By Fred Kibor | July 13th 2021

Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang'i (centre) in Tot, Elgeyo Marakwet County. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i this morning led a high-powered government delegation to meet warring communities in Elgeyo Marakwet as the death count from the recent clashes between communities rise to five.

In the session addressed by Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai, all local political and community leaders were summoned.

Over the weekend, five people were killed including a university student, and over 300 animals were stolen at Kaben location in Marakwet East. In the past three weeks alone, over 15 people have been killed with more than 500 animals stolen.

When the leaders troop to the region, they will be coming face to face with vagaries of years of inter-clan squabbles between area communities.  

The 1,000-acre Tot-Kolowa irrigation scheme along Kerio River on the border of Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet counties was once a beacon of hope to the hunger-stricken and impoverished locals of the semi-arid Kerio valley.

Ordinarily, by this time of the year, residents of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties would otherwise be harvesting food crops in Kerio valley. The farm, six years ago, gave hope to over 1,000 households from Pokot and Marakwet communities but was abandoned three years after it was launched owing to the escalating hostilities.

“The project was to allow us (the two communities) to embark on crop farming and ultimately put to an end the age-old practice of cattle rustling, which had hampered development activities. But look at us now, each day attacks are reported with human casualties and livestock theft,” said Richard Ruto, a beneficiary of the scheme.

CS Dr Fred Matiang'i (centre) in Tot with area leaders, among them; Governors Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet) and John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot). [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The irrigation project established in 2013 involved the construction of a water pipeline extending from Embobut River (Marakwet East) to the arid Kolowa plains (Tiaty) 8.25 kilometres away, and cover 1,000 acres of borderland from both communities along Kerio River.

But due to warring habits, the farm is now overgrown with shrubs with rusty and vandalised water pipes and taps, as huge anthills dot the once-thriving farm.

The place is desolate save for periodic security officers patrolling the Tot-Kolowa road linking the two counties, but it is a security threat for those on foot as cattle rustlers are believed to lurk in the overgrown shrubs.

An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) parked at Tot centre in Elgeyo Marakwet during a past operation, February 2, 2018. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

Grace Krop said she would walk for over 10 kilometres descending the Kasat village to her plot.

“I had planted watermelons, green grams, maize, millet, and sorghum for almost three years. Watermelons fetched me thousands of shillings that I used to pay school fees. There was tranquillity and life was cheap compared to when there was no irrigation scheme but not anymore,” she said.

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