When 21 police officers were slaughtered in Kasarani Plains in Kapedo Baringo County, exactly three years after a similar assault had been directed at security officers, the Government – for the first time in the country’s history – deployed the military to pursue bandits behind the assault.
Among the casualties in that attack were 42 police officers who had just graduated from Kiganjo. It was to be their first and last operation. In the more recent past, clashes between communities from West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties have claimed at least 20 lives.
In November 2014, following a presidential directive, hundreds of soldiers were strategically assigned to patrol the area with the intent of mopping up illegal arms from cattle rustlers. The deployment of well-trained Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) personnel along the border of Baringo and Turkana Counties was expected to end cattle-rustling. The soldiers were expected to disarm all illegal holders of firearms in an operation across the region among other strategies seeking to secure Kenya’s notorious valley of death.
The government further deployed armoured military helicopters to conduct aerial surveillance in the region, throughout the operation. But even before a single gun had been recovered, the military tankers and other artillery were pulled out of Kapedo. The forceful disarmament operation was suspended, the show of military might soon forgotten.
A few soldiers were left at Chesitet with a solitary military tanker. They made a few restricted and not so significant movements amidst fresh and sustained deathly cattle rustling raids on local communities. A contingent of General Service Unit (GSU) personnel, Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and Anti Stock Theft Unit sharpshooters left the region, a few months after the failed firearms mopping up operation had started.
Last year Tiaty MP, Asman Kamama, whose constituents are on the spot for being behind the region’s instability, castigated security officers deployed in the region, for allegedly wasting time in security camps and enjoying “good living” when they should be keeping surveillance and making the place secure. He stopped short of saying that they were not very useful and that they should perhaps go away.
Kamama, who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Administration and National Security, regrets that despite the heavy presence of security officers in the region, cattle rustlers continue to have a field day, killing and maiming innocent citizens.
A spot check by The Standard on Sunday confirmed that there are military camps at Kapedo, Lomelo, North Baringo, Tot, Arabal, Chepkalacha and Kainuk, among other trouble spots in the North Rift. There was also a 400-plus strong police team in Baringo, equipped with four armoured vehicles. In spite of this mighty presence, their impact is yet to be felt on the ground.
This year, dozens of officers set up temporary camps along the Kerio River bank in the Government’s effort to end the senseless killings, displacement of people, theft and destruction of property in the volatile region. Once again, the impact has yet to be felt.
In January this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to provide armoured vehicles to the police. The armoured personnel carriers (APCs), according to President Kenyatta, were to help the police to fight terrorism and organised crime without depending on the military. So far, there are over 200 police officers on constant patrol with armoured vehicles in the area. It will be interesting to watch them and see whether they will make any significant difference.
In March this year, the government deployed three APCs in Baragoi, Samburu County. This followed resolutions reached between the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Co-ordination of National Government, Joseph Nkaissery, and local leaders, following the killing of nine people. The special vehicles were to be used to patrol the hot spots, which include Masikita, Marti and Kambi Nyoka. Over 20 chiefs who were suspended by Baringo County Commissioner, Peter Okwanyo, after being linked to cattle rustling activities, have been quietly cleared and are now back in office.