Six-year-old Senteiyo Kateiyo was on Thursday evening fighting for her life at a Nairobi hospital, a victim of the tribal war on the children of Baringo and neighbouring areas.
A gaping wound on her head and a gunshot injury on her chest, inflicted by bandits who had attacked her village on Tuesday evening, proved too difficult to handle for the doctors at Nakuru Level 4 Hospital, who made the call to Nairobi to save her life.
Her mother, Ms Meiseyeki Lekateiya, and her two siblings were shot dead while trying to flee the village on Tuesday while her father, Mr Lokwang’a Lekateiya, was killed in 2011 during another scuffle between the Ilchamus and Pokot communities. At six, Senteiyo is Kenya’s newest orphan of a needless, senseless conflict.
The fate of her other three siblings is still unknown, and their neighbours in Tiaty have categorised them as “missing”. They are prepared for the worst.
Senteiyo’s sad story started on Tuesday morning, when two Pokot women and their children boarded a police Land Cruiser at Makutani in Tiaty on their way home. Public transport does not exist here, and so locals rely on moods of government drives and private hauliers to move around.
A few kilometres into the journey, bandits attacked the vehicle, killing the two women. When word of the attack reached Makutani, Pokot warriors started planning a revenge attack.
At around noon, parents from the Pokot community withdrew their children from Makutani Primary School. Later, women and children in the area sought shelter at trading centres while some went to the primary school, in the hope that it was secure. They were wrong.
“At about 6:30pm, a group of more than 100 bandits attacked the Administration Police and GSU camps near the school, putting officers under siege before heading into the villages and torching anything they could find,” Mr Benjamin Pakitore, a local resident, told the Daily Nation.
The bandits then moved to Makutani Primary, where they shot at the women and their children. Those who survived the attack ran as the bandits pursued them. Some managed to escape, others did not. Senteiyo was among the unlucky.
The machete and gunshot wounds on her young, frail body are testament to the barbarity of the bandits roaming Baringo today.
Police officers deployed have been blamed for failing to respond to cries for help.
The officers are part of a contingent carrying out a security operation in 19 areas gazetted as dangerous were deployed with firm instructions from the Deputy President William Ruto to deal firmly with bandits.
This emerged as residents said the five women and four children were killed inside a church after the bandits followed them from Mukutani Primary School.
According to locals who survived the attack, the officers were slow to respond.
A police reservist, James Katapi, who said he fought the armed bandits with his colleague, on Thursday alleged that the police officers situated not far from the area responded about six hours later.
“We were just tow, we were overwhelmed by the big number of bandits and when we requested for reinforcement from Rapid Deployment Unit camp 100 meters away we were turned away,” said Mr Katapi.
A local who survived the attack, Ms Irine Karande, alleged that those who sought refuge at the police camp were turned away.
“After being turned away from seeking refuge at teh camp, they later ran towards a nearby church and that is some of them met their deaths,” said Ms Karande.
A 90-year-old woman, Ms Lebongisho Naboo, said that she lost her daughter and two granddaughters in the attack. A two-week old baby who was spared in the church attack was left under the care of a Good Samaritan at Marigat town together with 17 other children. whose mothers were killed.