West Pokot residents on edge over rise in child abductions

Fear has gripped residents in villages along the West Pokot and Turkana Border point after rampant child abductions reported in the area.

This comes after a ten year old boy was on Wednesday abducted by bandits at Kostei village in Turkwel area.

The boy John Nangat Lobore was later rescued by the security team.

The bandits also made away with hundreds of livestock from Kasses village .

Two weeks prior, two children and two men who were abducted by bandits were shot and seriously injured by suspected bandits from Turkana County in Kamurio and Sarmach villages respectively.

In another incident a young man Lonyakomol Lokuri in the company of two others was killed while the two escaped with minor injuries.

A month ago, a boy Eliya Lwalenyang was abducted at Songok village and taken away for six hours and released at night after national police reservists and security officers pursued the bandits.

The banditry menace in the North Rift seems to give Government hectic times in the troubled Kerio Valley region, abduction and kidnappings has become a common phenomenon posing threat to peace and sustainable socio-economic development.

Bandits in the region seem to change tact by using abduction and kidnapping of people.

Consequently, the abductions are increasing death rates, illiteracy, displacement, poverty and loss of properties threatening social coherence among these communities.

Residents say this is aimed at provoking their neighbors to retaliate.

It has been established that those abducted are tortured and even sacrificed.

The bandits stay in the neighborhood for some time and ensnare their victims after monitoring them.

The military intervention to complement police efforts in the fight against bandits who have caused mayhem and loss of property in the North Rift region has not yielded fruits.

Bandits have taken advantage of the porous borders to launch attacks on neighboring communities.

Security experts say this is part of the general anarchy that seems to have descended on the region. They say that bandits abduct and kidnap children for those who stole livestock to return.

The bushy and hilly terrain in the region is a plus to them as this offers cover fire while security personnel are left exposed in the open. In any security operation, no officer would wish to encounter an ambush since the chances of survival are minimal.

Most of the hideouts are within remote, heavily forested areas, especially in Tiaty constituency in Baringo,Masol , Chesegon areas in West Pokot county and Kainuk in Turkana county.

Ombolion Chief Joseph Korkimul says that the objective of the recent attacks is not known as the bandits don’t steal any cattle but abduct children.

“Bandits have resorted to dirty tactics because they believe that by abducting children they do away with those who take revenge on them in future. No parent wants to see their child go through torture in the hands of bandits. This emotional attachment of parents to children is what the bandits exploit,” he said.

A parent Linah Kales from Kasses area says women and children should be left out in the banditry menace.

“It is disappointing that even though the security has a strong presence near schools, they don’t protect children. At this stage, we are only hoping for divine intervention. We are like a forgotten lot who have to mind about our children’s education as if we are under no governance,” she said.

The abductions have sparked outrage among area leaders.

West Pokot Deputy Governor Robert Komolle says that bandits have changed tact staging attacks during day time.

“The target is on the children and even women who are innocent. Children are the most defenseless and vulnerable people you would ever meet. They are powerless when they are attacked,” he said.

Komolle, who frowned at the growing rate of abductions, said the situation would continue to escalate, if not addressed by the government.

“With incidents like these, we will be reversing all the gains that were made in convincing parents to take their children to school .Because with these spate of kidnappings and abductions, definitely there will be that negative adverse effect on the desire and willingness of parents to allow their children to go to school.” he said.

He argued that the kidnapping was still taking place in spite of huge budgetary allocation to the security, rising investment in intelligence gathering to get advance information to nip their activities in the bud, and the formation of the various special task forces.

“So there is a need for our security agencies and government to ensure that we come up with strategies of ensuring security in schools,” said Komolle.

He expressed his worries that kidnapping and abduction banditry still strives despite persistent public outcries over their unbearable impact including killings, physical and psychological trauma, and socio-economic setback suffered by the victims and their families.

West Pokot senator Julius Murgor said armed bandits, who hitherto focused on attacking remote communities, appear to have turned their attention on school children, leaving a trail of sorrow, tears and blood.

“These criminal groups often choose to strike soft targets. They target a person, thing, or location that is easily accessible to the general public and relatively unprotected, making it vulnerable to security as opposed to a hard target that is heavily defended or not accessible to the general public,” said Rev Murgor.

West Pokot County police commandant Peter Kattam said security teams in Kerio Valley aim to destroy major hideouts used by bandits to plan and carry out attacks.

“We are focusing on masterminds and we plan to arrest them. They are involved in training young people to become bandits, cattle rustlers and killers,” he said.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki who visited the region two weeks ago said the Government will add National Police reservists and open security roads in the area.

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