Victims of bandit attacks in Kitui South who are staying in makeshift camps have defied orders by government officials to return to their homes.
The more than 200 families who fled their homes on Sunday following renewed bandit attacks told senior security bosses in Mutha on Thursday that patrols being done by police officers along the main routes cannot not guarantee their safety in the villages.
The victims told Kitui County Commissioner John Ondego, who was accompanied by the county security committee, that the attackers are hiding inside the South Kitui Game Reserve and that unless they are flushed out, the area remains volatile.
PATROLS NOT ENOUGH
They expressed concerns that security personnel deployed to the area are only doing road patrols and returning to their stations at night, which is not sufficient to drive away the armed attackers who are said to be hiding in the bush.
Mr Nzenge Longosi, who lost a brother in the Sunday attack, said police are only patrolling the main roads instead of combing the bush for the attackers.
“My brother was ambushed at his home in broad daylight by Somali bandits who slit his throat as his wife and children watched. We are not even able to organise his burial because the attackers are still being seen grazing their camels near our homes,” Mr Longosi lamented.
He said the area remains unsafe for the displaced families to return and urged the government to deploy the military or a specialised force to deal with the menace.
They accused the government of turning a blind eye on the root cause of problem by failing to flush out more than 5,000 people illegally living inside the game reserve, where some are feared to be illegal foreigners and terror agents responsible for persistent bandit attacks.
Mr Ondego and county police commanders had toured Mutha where more than 700 people are camping at the Catholic church compound.
They also visited camps in Musenge, Imuumba and Kyeni where dozens others are camping.
The county commissioner and his security team assured the affected families that adequate security measures to restore peace have been put in place and urged them to return to their homes and have schools that were deserted reopened, but they declined.
The families, who were forcibly driven out of their homes by armed Somali camel herders, said they preferred sleeping in the cold than going back to be terrorised again.
In an ugly recurrence of the long standing pastoral conflict pitting peasant farmers in the region and invading Somali herders in search of pasture and water, the latest bandit attacks have left three people dead and scores others with gunshot injuries in the last one week.
“This is no longer a Kitui County pastoral conflict, but it is major security problem affecting the entire country because the people hiding in the Enyali thicket are Al-Shabaab terrorists and they are connected to influential people in government,” Kitui South MP Racheal Nyamai said on wednesday.