Kenya: Respite in Laikipia's Killing Fields as Uneasy Calm Returns

29 September 2021

As the security operation in Laikipia County enters the 23rd day, the sounds of gunshots have reduced in Ol Moran and its environs.

A few weeks ago, gunshots and confrontations between security officers and bandits were the order of the day and the place was literally a battlefield.

But now there is respite in the killing fields of Ol Moran.

Contingents of security officers deployed to the insecurity-prone areas have been working to contain the insecurity in Ol Moran and its neighbourhood.

A visit to parts of Ol Moran by the Nation team established that relative calm is slowly returning to the strife-torn regions of Laikipia.

Families that had fled the area for fear of attacks are slowly rebuilding their lives.

With the help of the national and county governments, the rebuilding of homes that were razed by bandits has begun in earnest as calm slowly returns to the county.

The construction of buildings to host more police officers is also taking shape. The new police structures are a joint project between the national government and that of Laikipia County, which has committed Sh20 million.

Insecurity

Residents interviewed by the Nation said calm has returned to the region despite pockets of insecurity incidents. "Schools that had been closed have reopened and children are streaming back. We hope total normalcy will resume soon," said Mr John Maina, a resident of Ol Moran.

Ms Beatrice Kwamboka, another resident, told the Nation despite the heavy police presence, locals are still apprehensive that they may be attacked again by bandits hiding in the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.

"The bandits are reported to be hiding at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. We still fear for our lives. We urge security agencies to flush out all the bandits and maintain presence in Laikipia after that,"Ms Kwamboka said.

Security personnel have established two camps in Nguisusu area, one belonging to the General Service Unit (GSU) and another one hosting Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) personnel. Other security officers deployed to the area include Special Elite, Border Patrol Unit and Anti-Stock Theft Unit.

The KDF conduct regular aerial patrol using two choppers while the special elite forces patrol areas profiled as disturbed on foot and sometimes using armoured vehicles.

The multi-agency team is also digging a trench at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy border along the Kamwenje-Wangwachi road to keep off bandits. The trench is also aimed to serve as a barrier for marauding animals migrating from the conservancy in search of water and pasture into nearby farmlands.

But the Nation has learnt that there are still pockets of banditry attacks that have left residents and local leaders apprehensive. The shooting of a 64-year-old man at Wangwaci in Ol Moran last week by suspected bandits created tension.

The attackers believed to have come from the volatile Laikipia Nature Conservancy shot dead Mr Charles Maina at Corner Mawe section on Wednesday afternoon, about 500 metres from where a multi-agency security team had been digging the trench. Mr Maina, who was herding his cattle, was shot five times in the head and three times in the chest. He died on the spot.

The bandits later drove away 30 herds of cattle towards the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.

Political leaders, residents and the clergy in Laikipia West have now questioned the effectiveness of the ongoing security operation.

The leaders led by Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, Laikipia West MP Patrick Mariru and a host of clergy decried that armed bandits and illegal herders were still roaming the county freely despite the ongoing security operation.

The ultimatum

The leaders said despite the government having issued a 24-hour ultimatum for the bandits to leave the county two weeks ago, nothing much has been done to ensure they have been flushed out of the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.

"Why does the government say there is an ongoing operation at the conservancy? Why is it that those who are killing our people are coming out of the conservancy -- they still steal our animals and hide in the same conservancy," said Senator Kinyua.

The clergy led by Peter Kinyua of Nyahururu CFF and his Deliverance Church counterpart Richard Mwangi have called on the government to conduct a major disarmament operation in Laikipia and the neighbouring counties.

Pastor Mwangi said it was wrong for the government to flush out the bandits and allow them to move out of the county with their illegal weapons.

However, the government says the operation has been a success.

"The operation has been successful. We have managed to flush out several bandits from their hideouts, especially in the Laikipia Nature Conservancy. Following the success of the first phase of the operation where most of the illegal herders were pushed out of the conservancy and its environs, peace has been restored and schools reopened. Residents too are rebuilding their lives," Police Spokesperson Bruno Shioso said in a statement.

"Notwithstanding the return to normalcy, security operations continue concentrating on flushing out remnants of illegal herders within the expansive conservancy," he added.

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