Leaders and residents of Baringo North and South have asked the government to reinstate National Police Reserve (NPR) personnel in the sub-counties, saying security officers sent there are not conversant with the terrain.
More than 450 reservists in Tiaty, Baringo North and Baringo South sub-counties were disarmed in May 2019. The government then said it wanted to capture their details digitally. It promised to vet and train them afresh before releasing the firearms.
Locals, however, say banditry, cattle rustling and general insecurity have increased since the reservists were disarmed, adding that armed men roam their areas freely. Many have fled their homes to seek shelter at security camps.
Mr Richard Chepchomei, an elder from Chemoe in Baringo North, said security officers are doing little to restore order and recover stolen animals.
"The government has left us to our own devices. Police camps are of little help. The reservists are familiar with the terrain and usually repulse criminals and recover stolen livestock. We still do not know why they were disarmed," Mr Chepchomei said.
He added that Chemoe, Yatya, Kagir, Ng'aratuko, Chepkesin, Kamwetio, Kaborion, Kapturo, Kinyach and Loruk are some ofthe areas worst hit by banditry in Baringo North.
Government seized guns
The elder said children in Kapindasim, Kasiela, Arabal and Chemorong'ion cannot walk freely to school for fear of attacks.
"Reservists used to patrol areas police officers could not access. The security officers only patrol roads yet criminals hide in the bush," he said.
Mochongoi Ward Representative Kipruto Kimosop questioned the retaining of the guns by the government.
"The government seized the guns from reservists yet it knows we are surrounded by criminals. Normality had returned because of the reservists but locals are now vulnerable," Mr Kimosop said.
During the registration of the guns, the then Baringo County Police Commander Robinson Ndiwa said there would be fresh listing and training to weed out people he accused of collaborating with criminals.
"Most reservists are aligned to politicians and are not carrying out their duties as required. Plans are on for fresh vetting and training to ensure the right people are enlisted. The firearms will be returned once the biometric registration is complete," Mr Ndiwa said.
"We also want to know the number of the reservists and firearms."
Using guns to commit crime
Before the disarmament, some leaders in Kerio Valley had accused reservists of using their guns to commit crimes.
Tiaty MP William Kamket attributed banditry to the decision by the government to arm police reservists without properly vetting them.
"The reservists with guns were recruited hurriedly. We want them withdrawn and vetted afresh. Those in Elgeyo Marakwet and Kapedo are using their guns to commit crimes. That is like providing uniform and a gun to a bandit," Mr Kamket said.
Kolowa Ward Representative Solomon Makal said reservists from Elgeyo Marakwet county were given more than 700 guns "yet those in Tiaty got just 40".
"That is arming one community against another. We want those reservists withdrawn immediately," Mr Makal said.
The government deployed 381 police officers and more than 450 reservists in Baringo North, South and Tiaty in 2016.
The security officers were sent to Chepkesin, Kagir, Yatya, Ng'aratuko and Kinyach in Baringo North while others went to Noosukro, Ruggus ,Mukutani and Ng'elecha.