President Uhuru Kenyatta Sunday ordered pastoralists on the boundary of Turkana and Baringo counties to name those behind Saturday’s killing of more than 21 police officers “by the end of the day” or face a massive security operation.
Hours after the ultimatum was issued, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops were moving into the troubled Kapedo area.
The Nation team Sunday night saw more than 10 KDF armoured personnel carriers taking soldiers to the area. In Marigat, the convoy caused a heavy traffic jam.
Speaking Sunday when he led a huge delegation for a security meeting in Kapedo, Tiaty sub-county, Mr Kenyatta also ordered that firearms and uniforms belonging to the slain officers be surrendered.
“I’m here today because you took the lives of over 20 officers who were in the line of duty,” he said. “I hereby order that you give us the names of those behind the killings by the end of today. If you can kill officers in such a manner, you are sending a message that there is no government. The government is there and will deal firmly with such lawlessness,” said a visibly angry Mr Kenyatta.
WELL KNOWN CRIMINALS
More than 30 people have been killed in Kapedo in the past one week. The 21 police officers were killed in an ambush between Kapedo and Lokori in Turkana County as they tried to recover a burnt General Service Unit (GSU) vehicle that was used in a security operation that aborted last week.
Mr Kenyatta said: “The criminals who killed the officers are well-known and we will not rest until they are brought to book. Even if your leaders are claiming that it was a mistaken identity, that does not give you the licence to kill.”
He also warned those dividing Kenyans along ethnic lines that they will be dealt with.
“Everybody has a right to settle in any part of the country, irrespective of their ethnic or political affiliations. Mimi sitambui ukabila, natambua Wakenya (I don’t recognise tribalism, I recognise all Kenyans). God knows why He put us together,” said Mr Kenyatta.
The conflict between pastoralists in the region came to the fore at Kapedo during the President’s tour as leaders from Baringo County did not address the gathering.
Earlier, Pokot elders, who were carrying green twigs, apologised to the President of behalf of the community following the killings, which have instilled fear among police officers involved in an ongoing crackdown on illegal firearms.
“Your coming here today is a blessing to us. Just give us two weeks and we will talk to our people. We will return the missing guns and uniforms,” said Mr Paul Lotodo, a Pokot elder.
West Pokot Senator John Lonyangapuo and Kapenguria MP Joseph Moroto asked the government to set up boarding schools in pastoralist areas for herders to embrace education as a lasting solution to the perennial cattle rustling menace.
They said that Pokot leaders would soon roll out a series of peace meetings to unite the warring communities.
Mr Moroto asked the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the National Land Commission to address protracted land disputes which have resulted in conflict among pastoralists.
Tiaty MP Asman Kamama condemned the harassment of innocent civilians by security personnel involved in the security operation.
“How can you burn houses and personal property in the name of an operation? This is unacceptable and can lead to anarchy if not checked,” he said.
He demanded that the Independent Police Oversight Authority carries out an assessment at Chesitet, Ameyan and Solar areas to establish the cost of the damage allegedly caused by the officers to pave way for families to be compensated.
Regional Commissioner Osman Warfa accused leaders in the area of fuelling the conflict by inciting the residents to turn against each other.
“People cannot just wake up one day and start killing police officers and burning vehicles,” said Mr Warfa.
Baringo County Governor Benjamin Cheboi and Senator Gideon Moi called on the government to set up a task force to look into border feuds which were fuelling conflict across the country.