Kenya: Leaders Clash Over Kapedo Security Operation

26 January 2021

Leaders from insecurity-prone counties in the North Rift have clashed over the ongoing operation in Kapedo on the border of Baringo and Turkana, a move that is likely to jeopardise the ongoing disarmament.

The aggressive push by the Pokot from Tiaty sub-county to kick the Turkana out of Lomelo, that is shared by the two communities, as the country heads towards the next general elections, is emerging as an underlying factor for the attacks.

Lomelo is an arable land with vast richness in pasture and water while Kapedo is partly arable and rich in oil, limestone and geothermal energy.

While leaders from Turkana, Baringo and Elgeyo-Marakwet counties want the government not to relent on disarming residents from those areas until all the illegal firearms are recovered arguing that those involved are no longer cattle rustlers but criminals, those from West Pokot are of opinion that the government should embrace dialogue.

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Turkana leaders led by Governor Josphat Nanok yesterday said they are supporting the ongoing security operation because the Turkana community is not fighting with their Pokot neighbours, but instead there are terrorists on a mission to kill civilians and police.

"The government's seriousness must be seen now. Just like the way it dealt with terror in Mt Elgon, we plead with the President to take action, even if it means bringing in the military," Mr Nanok said.

He said that due to the nature of attacks on the police and civilians, the government and the international community should declare armed groups in Tiaty as terror organisations.

"The declaration will ensure every effort is put in place to eliminate the group that has been terrorising Laikipia West, Baringo South, Baringo North, Marakwet East, Turkana East and Turkana South Sub Counties. I am pleased with the ongoing security operation," the governor said.

He described the attackers as organised, with a leadership structure and an agenda. According to him they are also well-armed and resourced, have a steady supply of firearms and ammunition.

'Well-funded' criminals

MPs James Lomenen (Turkana South), Mohammed Lokiru (Turkana East) and John Lodepe (Turkana Central), who were trapped in Kapedo last week, said the bandits are well-funded.

Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis said the attacks are criminal and have nothing to do with politics.

Mr Kiptis said that chiefs and their assistants in Tiaty had given out names of notorious suspects, but no action has been taken against them.

"Why can't Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and the team look for some of these criminals?" he asked.

At the same time, Elgeyo-Marakwet Deputy Governor Wesley Rotich and Marakwet East MP Kangogo Bowen yesterday asked the government to extend the ongoing operation in Kapedo to the Kerio Valley stretch, arguing that the same criminals might have migrated to their county.

Use dialogue

Pokot leaders have, however, urged the government to halt the ongoing security operation and give dialogue a chance.

They hit out at their Turkana counterparts over incitement and pretense that they are under siege.

Led by West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo, the leaders urged the government to conduct peace meetings and negotiate with locals instead of using force.

"The Pokots and Turkanas share the same problems and there is no reason to engage in conflicts," he said.

"A thief is a thief and should be treated as an individual. We don't want blanket condemnation. The culprits should carry their own cross. We want the Inspector General Hillary Mutyambai and Rift valley regional Coordinator George Natembeya to work with area leaders," Pokot South MP David Pkosing said.

Reported by Sammy Lutta, Onyango K'Onyango and Oscar Kaikai

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