Kenya: Don't Incite Locals, Baringo Leaders Warned

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya has warned leaders from Baringo County against inciting locals in the wake of an ongoing operation to flush out cattle rustlers and illegal guns in the area.

Mr Natembeya said the operation is a well-planned one and it aims to end insecurity in the area.

Speaking at his home in Kitale, the regional commissioner singled out statements made by Tiaty MP Willima Kamket that the community "would defend itself if security officers continue with the operation".

MEETINGS

"This operation is a result of a series of meeting and recommendations we made with leaders in the region to ensure we end perennial insecurity that has affected residents of that area," said Mr Natembeya.

His warning comes as tension runs high in the insecurity prone Nasorot, Riongo, Naudo and Akwichatis in Tiaty after police officers allegedly torched shops in the area.

The regional commissioner singled out Silale in Tiaty Constituency as the home of criminals terrorising residents.

He cautioned politicians against inciting locals.

He said security personnel will not relent until all criminals are flushed out.

"How can a leader dare the government that the community will exercise self-defence? These statements must be stopped," he noted.

OFFICERS INJURED

He said two police officers were injured on May 28 while they were on an operation in Silale and are undergoing treatment.

The more than 150 officers deployed in the area a month ago are tasked with seizing illegal guns in the hands of civilians in Tiaty, Baringo North and Baringo South.

According to Anthony Kibet, a resident, the officers set ablaze more than 20 shops at Riong'o shopping centre. He added that some locals who were residing in the area were nearly burnt in the Sunday morning incident.

LOSSES

Locals are now counting losses and some have been left homeless since they could not salvage anything from the premises.

Elders from Tiaty Sub-County have appealed to security officers carrying out the operation to mop up illegal guns to seek assistance from chiefs and community leaders in the region to identify suspected armed criminals instead of harassing and shooting at innocent civilians.

The elders raised concerns that security officers deployed in the region a month ago were using unorthodox means instead of seizing the guns from named criminals.

PUPIL INJURED

On Thursday afternoon, the officers also reportedly fired shots randomly at locals at Naudo shopping centre in Silale Ward, seriously wounding a Standard Two pupil in the leg.

According to Judah Losutan, an elder, the young boy was herding livestock near the shopping centre when he was allegedly shot.

"We no longer understand the intentions of the security officers because if they were looking for armed criminals, why then shoot a young boy herding his father's livestock? They should tell us what they are up to because we are reading some mischief in this exercise," said Mr Losutan.

NAMES OF CRIMINALS

He wondered why the officers are harassing and shooting at innocent civilians yet they had given out the names of suspected armed criminals to the authorities.

"We willingly gave the names of suspects to the provincial administration to track them and seize the illegal guns but why are they now turning their guns on innocent people including young children? This is barbaric and we are not going to take this lightly," he retorted.

The elder, who is also a former councillor, said if the government wants to achieve its objective, it should seek assistance from local chiefs and elders from the region.

SELF DEFENCE

"If they continue harassing innocent civilians, women and children going about their daily activities, then they are not going to achieve what they wanted. Local chiefs and elders may play a very critical role if they involve them in the exercise," said Mr Losutan.

"This operation is not done on a human face as stated by the security officials but officers are now tormenting innocent civilians," said Akiru Naibokore, a resident of Riong'o.

Mr Kamket wondered why the police were harassing and shooting at innocent people including young children yet they already have the names of the said suspects, including where they come from.

"We do not want a situation where there will be a confrontation between the security officers and civilians but if they turn their guns on innocent people then the right to self-defence is inherent. People will be forced to defend themselves," Mr Kamket.

"The county security hinted recently that the disarmament exercise is intelligence-led. Is there any intelligence employed in shooting at people who are going on with their daily chores including school going children herding livestock? posed the MP.

POLICE AMBUSHED

However, Baringo County Police Commander Robinson Ndiwa has disputed the claims, indicating that locals in Naudo laid an ambush on the officers on patrol, injuring two of them.

"In a stretch of 25kms between Naudo and Silale, the officers on patrol were ambushed more than five times by armed civilians. In the event, the boy, who was also among the attackers, was caught in the crossfire. As we speak, two of our officers who were also shot have been taken to a Nakuru hospital for treatment," said Mr Ndiwa.

"Our officers were returning fire after they were ambushed. The armed locals provoked the police and it was not justifiable to use illegal guns in attacking our officers. They will feel the heat until they surrender the arms," he added.

The police commander said that two days ago they seized more than 25 illegal guns and arrested four suspects since the government rolled out the massive operation in the banditry prone areas in Baringo County.

According to Mr Ndiwa, the operation which begun a fortnight ago to disarm civilians is targeting the porous Tiaty, Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties.

SPECIFIC INDIVIDUALS

The police commander emphasised that the disarmament is not targeting a particular community but specific individuals who have been singled out by the intelligence.

"We are not undertaking the operation to humiliate innocent people. This is a structured operation that is intelligence-led and we already have the names of the suspected armed criminals wreaking havoc in this region. We already have four in our custody and we are still going to specific homes to pick more culprits," said Mr Ndiwa.

He said that the operation targets to recover illegal firearms, recover stolen livestock and make sure that criminals perpetrating banditry attacks are arrested.

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