Security chiefs in Bungoma County will have to contend with heavy rains, muddy roads and a population unwilling to come forth with information as they battle killer gangs in Mt Elgon.
Interior CS Fred Matiang’i Tuesday imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the region and launched a security crackdown on criminals who have killed, maimed and scared people following an outcry from local leaders.
“The government will deploy additional security officers and intensify patrols and ensure prompt response to attacks. We are going to hunt them down and ensure they face the law,” said Dr Matiang’i at a baraza in Kipsigon, Cheptais Sub-County.
“We are telling the criminals that you can run but you can’t hide, we will get you. We have your identity and it is only a matter of time before we arrest you,” he added.
He spoke at Kipsigon grounds after he held a closed-door meeting with security officials.
But, as he spoke, the event was disrupted by heavy rains. And, as he left the scene, his convoy got stuck in the mud, reminding security chiefs of the difficult work ahead.
The decision means more police officers will be deployed in the latest bid to secure the volatile area.
Despite the security measures announced by Dr Matiang’i, police officers have a tough task in responding to attacks that often happen at night.
The criminal gangs have targeted villagers in Kipsigon, Banantega, Kopsiro, Masaek, Chebyuk and Huruma, killing animals, shooting people, raping women and leaving behind horrified and displaced families.
But this is also an area with tough terrain. Rain pours here often and the volcanic soils easily cake into mud, making navigation difficult.
The curfew, to last three months, with a possible extension, is meant to facilitate easy combing of the area by security officers.
The officers will finger participants in the violence reportedly led by a man only identified as Cheparakat.
The CS warned that those flouting the curfew, which came into force from Tuesday night, will have themselves to blame. The gang is said to be composed of remnants of the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), an amorphous grouping that was annihilated 10 years ago when the Kenya Defence Forces launched a crackdown on its commanders led by Wycliffe Matakwei.
The SLDF had claimed, through violence, that their land in the controversial Chebiuk Settlement Scheme had been given to non-natives.
Their brand of protest was in the form of chopping off ears of suspected government informers, raping of women, and killing of people thought to have benefited from the allocation of land in the settlement. The government crackdown in 2008 also ended with the jailing of several sympathisers.
Dr Matiang’i was accompanied by colleagues Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) and Faridah Karoney (Lands) and Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet.