Kenya: Abductions and Brutal Murders in Baringo's 'Wild West'

21 January 2021

The last time they were seen alive, six residents of the insecurity-hit Chemolingot shopping centre in Baringo County were in the company of what locals describe as security officers in plain clothes.

They had been making merry at Jubilant Bar when the officers stormed in on Tuesday evening and demanded that they accompany them to an unknown destination.

Hours later the six -- Paul Kosgei (human resource officer, Teachers Service Commission Tiaty), Nelson Kordado (primary school head teacher), Brian Silale (IEBC official), David Kukat (medical student), Kanga Siareng (businessman) and an unidentified young man believed to be a bodaboda rider -- were found brutally killed.

The bullet-riddled bodies were discovered in a thicket by security personnel and locals pursuing bandits who had attacked a village in Arabal, Baringo South, some 100 kilometres away.

Apart from Kosgei, the TSC officer, the rest of the victims were from the local area.

The motive of their killing remains unknown.

Boarded vehicle

"The seven boarded a vehicle outside the bar on Tuesday at around 4pm together with the security officers and drove towards the Chemolingot-Loruk road," said one of the residents who requested anonymity for fear of his security.

A multi-agency security team, including the military, General Service Unit (GSU) Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) and police are carrying out operations in the area following the killing by bandits of a GSU officer on Sunday.

According to the residents, one of the victims suspected of being a bandit was being tracked by the security team.

When the Nation visited Baringo County Referral Hospital mortuary on Wednesday, the bullet-riddled bodies were being offloaded from a police Land Cruiser at around 11.45pm.

"We were at Chemolingot shopping centre on Tuesday evening when word went round that some people, including government officials had been rounded up while entertaining themselves in a club. We later learnt that they were found dead," said another resident who declined to be named, citing security fears.

Baringo County commissioner Henry Wafula declined to comment on the matter and referred journalists to the Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya.

Not aware

"I am not aware that some bodies were discovered in Arabal and I am not in a position to comment on the ongoing security operation in this region. Kindly contact the regional commander for details," said Mr Wafula.

Mr Natembeya disputed claims that the incident could be an extra-judicial killing, noting that the victims may have been involved in the livestock theft that occurred in Arabal and were caught up in the crossfire with security teams.

"As you are aware, there was a banditry attack at Chemorong'ion and more than 50 cows were driven away by armed criminals. Security officers responded in pursuit of the attackers in a bid to recover the stolen livestock," said Mr Natembeya.

"There was a fierce gun exchange between the bandits and the security officers. Anyone found dead in the area might be a police officer or a bandit, who were killed in the crossfire," he added.

Intensive security operation

The incident comes in the backdrop of an ongoing intensive security operation in the area intended to seize illegal guns and flush out armed criminals after a GSU operation commander was killed in Ameyan while two other officers were seriously injured near Kapedo on Sunday.

The GSU operation commander based in the porous Kapedo, Emadau Temakol, was shot dead while his driver sustained serious gunshot wounds on the hands.

Tension is high in Kapedo following the attack. Locals are living in fear of more attacks from the bandits who are reported to be hiding in the bush.

Incidents of abduction have been rampant in the banditry-prone counties in the North Rift region.

In February 2017, Loyamorok Ward representative Fredrick Cheretei and Tiaty parliamentary aspirant Simon Pepee Kitambaa were shot dead at a night club in Marigat by suspected armed criminals.

The two politicians from Tiaty Sub-County were killed by hooded gunmen at a night club in Marigat town.

In the same year, a Baringo ward representative (MCA) from Tiaty Sub-County went missing and his body was found four days later.

Churo/Amaya Ward MCA Thomas Minito was reportedly approached by three people at a hotel in Kabarnet town where he was taking lunch with a female government official from Tiaty.

The body of the MCA was found floating in River Athi under the Donyo Sabuk bridge in Machakos county. It had an injury on the head caused by a blunt object.

Reports indicate that the body had a small poster found in his coat pocket bearing his name.

A vehicle belonging to the murdered MCA was also torched and the parliamentary aspirant vehicle's windscreen was shattered.

Abducted

In July 2018, Silale Ward Representative Nelson Lotela was reportedly abducted along Nginyang' road in Tiaty Sub-County by people who identified themselves as police officers.

The incident happened when the MCA was heading home from Chemolingot trading centre when he was intercepted by people purporting to be security officers who ordered him to disembark from his vehicle and bundled him into a saloon car.

Mr Lotela's driver, who was with him at the time of the incident, identified the vehicle and went to report the matter at Nginyang' Police Station.

Luckily, Mr Lotela was found the following morning dumped in a maize plantation in Sobea, in the neighbouring Nakuru County by good Samaritans who took him to Kabarak University Health Centre.

Stumbled upon bodies

In May 2019, bodies of two men were discovered inside Sabor Forest in Keiyo South Constituency in the morning by athletes out for high altitude training.

The two bodies had gunshot wounds to the head and their hands were tied with ropes.

Two other men were found alive with serious gunshot injuries a few meters away.

Hillary Kemboi, who was among the five athletes who stumbled upon the bodies, said they found another man about 30 meters from where the bodies of the two men lay, who had sustained serious gunshot injuries but was still alive.

It was later established that the person killed was a livestock trader, alongside his friend. The bodies were riddled with bullets wounds.

Leaders said the two went missing after they were allegedly picked and bundled into a private car moments after they were charged and released on bond at the Kapenguria Law Courts for allegedly buying stolen livestock.

They had reportedly been found with three stolen cows from a herd of 24 they had bought at Lomut livestock market.

In June 2019, a former Kapyego MCA's body was found dumped in a thicket in Kamatira Forest, West Pokot County.

Benson Kiptire was allegedly abducted by people who claimed to be police officers at his shop in Eldoret town.

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