15 November 2012

Kenya: MPs Reject KDF Deployment, Defend Suguta Attack

Lawmakers from Turkana, where raiders are suspected to have fled after an attack in Samburu left 42 policemen dead, have now opposed the deployment of the Kenyan military to the area.

Labour Minister John Munyes, Wildlife Assistant Minister Josephat Nanok and Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro argued that the deployment which was approved by the National Security Council will affect voter registration set to kick-off on Monday.

"This is an election year and it is sad that the operation has been ordered ahead of the voter registration exercise," said Nanok who is also the Turkana South MP.

"The deployment of the military by the National Security Council amounts to an overthrow of the Constitution which clearly says that security agencies will not be used for political reasons and we will take legal action," said Ethuro.

Munyes, who is also the Turkana North legislator, is instead recommending a joint disarmament programme with the neighbouring Uganda, Ethiopia and South Sudan.

He claimed the disarmament is selective and targets one community yet the problem affects all the pastoralist communities in the three neighbouring countries including the Toposa, Dinka, Merile, Turkana, Pokot and Samburu.

"Right now, KDF forces have been deployed all over Turkana and Samburu County and the local communities are worried that innocent children, women and youth are going to be tortured. This deployment is ill advised because it is testimony that our internal security apparatus has failed."

"We (the Turkana) have no godfather in government, but they must realise that we will not sit and wait to be exterminated," said the Labour Minister.

Speaking at Parliament buildings on Thursday, the Turkana legislators said the security operation on Saturday was poorly planned and executed, leading to massive deaths of police officers and some civilians.

Munyes said the herdsmen acted in self defence after Samburu raiders with the help of security forces planned to surround their village.

"The operation was (conducted) days after the cattle rustling had happened and this was a peaceful manyatta, they were just waiting for the negotiators to return to the Samburu (the cows had been taken on the October 19) and Samburu to return the camels they had taken."

"They should have engaged the community leaders because we know some of these people so that we come and talk to them and persuade them to return the livestock. But instead they decided to come and surround the village with bombs and surely a responsible herder with small children, women and old people in the village could not take that, that you come in the night to shell a village so they decided they better face them out in the valley," he recounted.

He was backed by Ethuro who explained that there were talks between the elders of the two communities to have the stolen livestock returned to their respective owner.

The MPs are also demanding that the Kenyan flag be flown at half mast in honour of the fallen security personnel and other Kenyans.

"The lives and property of every Kenyan citizen is important and must be fully protected."

He added, "the military should be sent to Todonyang where last night we lost several heads of cattle to the Merile from Ethiopia, they should not be deployed within the country, let them go after our property being stolen by foreigners!"

Munyes said that discriminatory operations in the area could worsen the situation in the banditry prone area.

"We do not want Turkana's to be treated like second class citizens. Raiders from other countries have been roaming the area. I have just lost my livestock and the government has done nothing about it. This is unfair," Munyes said.

Nanok demanded the establishment of a judicial inquiry to investigate the massacre and urged an investigation on the role played by nominated MP Maison Leshoomo in the bloodbath.

Leshoomo has however denied any involvement in the attacks.

"We are prepared to launch a legal battle at any court of justice locally and internationally for we wonder why KDF was not used when 50 Turkanas were massacred by foreigners in Todonyang," said Nanok.

The MPs accused the Office of the President of being manipulated by a politician from the region whom they say enjoys support from top government officials.

The MPs also accused the government of having underrated previous attacks on the Turkana by both local and foreign bandits.

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