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Police accused of harassing Samburu women in disarmament exercise

Wednesday November 16 2016

Women from the Turkana and Samburu community at Rumuruti Township in Laikipia on November 16, 2016 after a cancelation of a permit allowing peaceful demonstration against what they alleged was harassment by police in the ongoing disarmament exercise. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Women from the Turkana and Samburu community at Rumuruti Township in Laikipia on November 16, 2016 after the cancelation of a permit allowing a peaceful demonstration against what they alleged was harassment by police in the ongoing disarmament exercise. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ERIC MATARA
By ERIC MATARA
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STEVE NJUGUNA
By STEVE NJUGUNA
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Barely a week after the government ordered a forcible disarmament in Laikipia and neighbouring counties, women from the Samburu community residing in the area claim they are being harassed and tortured by security agencies.

A spot-check by the Nation on Wednesday revealed a looming humanitarian crisis in Laikipia West, where women and children have fled their homes in the last two weeks in fear of torture by the police.

The most affected areas include Ngaremare, Mfugo and Karuau in Laikipia West constituency and parts of Laikipia North.

The over 100 women currently camping at Kapkures Primary School claim that the officers deployed in the area were torturing residents instead of restoring security and collecting arms as was ordered last week.

"Police are torturing women and children as they conduct the disarmament drive. We call upon the government to end the exercise and avert more suffering of both Samburu and Turkana women and children," Ms Kiramatisho Lemuli told the Nation.

The Turkana and Samburu communities have been embroiled in inter-communal clashes over pasture and cattle rustling that have left seven people dead, more than 800 livestock stolen and about 480 families displaced over the last two weeks alone.

Last week, the government ordered forcible disarmament in Laikipia and neighbouring counties in a bid to restore security in the region.

Following a high-level security meeting held on Thursday, police officers in the region have been directed to sweep up all illegal firearms in the possession of civilians and deal firmly with those who own them.

The security meeting was attended by the security and operation secretary in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination Mr Amos Gathecha, Rift Valley Regional Coordinator Mr Wanyama Musiambo and Kenya Police Service Director of Operations Mr Benson Kibui.

Also in attendance were National Cohesion and Integration Commission representatives led by the chairperson Mr Francis Ole Kaparo, local MPs and elders from the two sides, among others.

SIGH OF RELIEF

Last week’s disarmament announcement followed the tension in Ngaremare, Mfugo, Karuau villages Sossian ward in Rumuruti, Laikipia West constituency as Samburu and Turkana communities clashed over pasture and cattle rustling.

The announcement came as a sigh of relief to residents of Laikipia West constituency which has been a battlefield as herders invade private farms and ranches in search of pasture.

Most grazers from the neighbouring Samburu, Baringo, West Pokot, Isiolo and Turkana counties have migrated to private farms in the region in search for pasture and this has created conflict amongst the communities in the area and prompted attacks.

On Wednesday, the protesting women had planned to stage a protests but did not secure a permit from authorities.

“I have lost everything including food. I am surprised that l am being harassed like this in a country that gained independence more than 50 years ago," said resident Christina Ledonyo.

Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, Mr Musiambo, however, denied claims that police were torturing residents.

"The ongoing disarmament exercise is aimed at retrieving all illegal arms to restore normalcy in the area. I call upon those with complaints to record statements in nearest police stations for action," said Mr Musiambo.

According to Mr Musiambo, the exercise was intended to disarm criminals who have refused to surrender illegal arms.