The Star (Nairobi)

15 November 2012

Kenya: Tears as Relatives Mourn Butchered Officers

Majority of the 42 policemen killed in action at Baragoi had just left the police academy a few months ago.

On Tuesday, their friends and families who had for the last two days been camping at the Chiromo Mortuary and at Wilson Airport to receive their bodies wept when they were offloaded from a police helicopter-- nearly four days after the attack.

On hand to console the wailing relatives was Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere and other senior police officers who promised to do everything they can to arrest those responsible for the ambush in which the policemen were killed as they attempted to recover stolen animals from rustlers.

It is emerging that most of the policemen deployed in the operation were rookies -- fresh recruits who had barely served three months. The relatives were inconsolable as they recalled the hopeful messages they got from their kin as they set off for the operation.

The relatives of 22-year-old Abdinasir Abdi Hassan Gullet who graduated from the police college in September were among those who had been waiting for any update since Sunday.

"Abdi had not even got his first salary. The salary had been sent to the bank but he was deployed for the operation before he could withdraw any of it," said his uncle who is also a policeman.

He was concerned by the undue delay in bringing the bodies from Baragoi which meant that the family had not been able to observe the Muslim burial rituals which demand that a person is buried within 24 hours of death.

The uncle said the family had opted to hire a chopper to fly Abdi's body for burial at his home in Habaswein in Wajir. Abdi was buried yesterday.

"It's a big shame that the Kenyan government can treat its officers like this. To work and die for this nation is useless. How come they never sent reinforcements to the policemen when they realised they were overpowered?" Abdi's uncle posed.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe could not give details as to why rookies were deployed on such an operation or give details about what happened and only promised that a comprehensive statement about the killings would be issued "soon". "We are talking to the relatives. We have to brief them on what is happening first," Kiraithe said.

Fatuma Siraj -- a mother of two children aged 12 and 10 -- whose 30-year-old husband Ahmed Abdullahi died in the ambush was at a loss about what she would do now that the family's breadwinner is gone.

She and her mother-in-law were among the relatives who have been camping at the airport since Monday. She said it was frustrating that the government had taken so long to airlift the bodies.

"It's been four days since they died. Are we being ruled by a bandit government or the Kenyan government? They should allow us to go and collect the bodies ourselves if they don't want to bring them to us for burial!" said Fatuma amid sobs.

Relatives of other policemen killed who were also at the airport expressed concern at what they claimed was the government's selective response to the situation.

"Our leaders don't bother. How is it government resources were quickly mobilised to deal with the accident in Tanzania and yet nothing has been done in this situation?" they asked.

Hilda Tunga is the aunt of 24-year-old Steven Nyongesa who also graduated from the police academy in September. He had spent a month on leave with his family in Kwanza before he was deployed for the Samburu operation.

Hilda said Nyongesa -- who got a B minus in his 2009 KCSE examinations -- had joined the police service so that he could get enough money to enroll at the University of Nairobi Laikipia campus to study business administration.

"He was our big hope and now this has been cut short. We pray that necessary measures are put in place to prevent other families from going through what we are suffering," she said.

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