Agony for residents at the Turkwel belt due to renewed attacks
For close to a century now, the conflict between the Pokot and Turkana communities has remained a thorn in the flesh of both the locals and the Government.
The main reason is that residents in the region scrape their living in arid and semi–arid climates that are characterized by the unpredictability of rains with the resultant scarcity of pasture and water. These force the inhabitants to survive through nomadic pastoralism where mobility is the key to survival. In the course of movement in search of water and pasture, they fight against each other.
There is also a controversy surrounding the border town between the two Turkana counties which remains unsolved.
Five years ago, relative peace resumed in the area after numerous peace caravans and dialogue between elected leaders and elders.
However, since late last year, the volatile border has gone back to its tradition of banditry and cattle rustling, a thing locals claim is due to incitements from area leaders.
This has led to many residents to become victims of merciless bandits who have turned the deadly stretch into a killer border, often pitting both communities against each other.
The insecurity wave that has rocked the region has left more than ten people killed and ten others injured by gunshots in various hospitals with pain since the year began.
The Turkwel region has suffered many attacks for the last month in Lami Nyeusi, Sarmach, Kases, Kambi Karaya, Ombolion, Lorogon, Chesegon, Masol, Marich, Lous, and Orwa villages.
The latest incident is where 2 children and 2 men were shot and seriously injured by suspected bandits from Turkana County in Kamurio and Sarmach villages respectively.
This is after five people were killed at Lami Nyeusi along the Kitale –Lodwar highway by suspected bandits from Turkana County, two months ago.
A snap survey at the Turkwel belt that borders the troubled Kainuk area shows that villages have been deserted, residents displaced, learning paralyzed and properties destroyed.
The situation has been occasioned by rampant insecurity which has seen their livestock, which is a major source of livelihood, wiped out by armed criminals.
Residents affected by hunger stay in bushes and caves due to fear of attacks.
Many residents who spoke to NTV narrated how banditry has completely shattered their dreams. They called on the Kenya Kwanza Government to fulfil its pledge to restore calm in the region.
“We are tired of killings and raids along the Pokot-Turkana border and we are living in fear where we must bury a person every week. We don’t sleep in our houses. I have never slept in my house for the last seven months,” said Paul Lokwata, a resident of Sarmach.
Locals accused leaders of incitement which has led to animosity between the two wrangling communities.
They now want the government to compensate victims of attacks.
They said that businesses have been affected in the area.
Another resident Monicah Cheyech said they are saddened by the loss of lives and destruction of property along the volatile border.
“It is sad that the Government and the international community and Government are not doing enough despite our losses. Why kill innocent children and women? I feel bad for the children we bore from our stomachs who are mercilessly killed. Our children are not in school,” she said.
They accused area leaders of doing little hence many people are losing lives.
“There is a need for leaders from the two counties to come together and initiate peace talks between the two communities to end the escalating deaths along the border,” said Cheyech.
She said that for now insecurity has paralyzed development along the corridor and scared away investors.
“No one is doing business and schools have been closed down because of the perennial raids,” she said.
Julius Lonyangatel a resident of Sekerr said the situation is now out of order and there is a need for urgent measures to be taken to end the frequent attacks.
“People steal livestock because of hunger and others want to go and pay dowry,” he said.
He urged the Government to arrest the insecurity situation and restore peace to enable residents to participate in national development.
“The killings are unwarranted and we urge the Government to ensure that peace prevails,” he said.
The situation has adversely hampered education, with hundreds of students dropping out of colleges and universities due to a lack of fees after their parents lost their livestock to bandits.
“The lives of these students have been destroyed. It is only fair that the Government settles their fees,” said Lonyangatel.
West Pokot Senator Julius Murgor says the Government should provide security to affected schools.
“We want the Government to speed up the rehabilitation of the vandalized schools. Children are not in school. They need food and teachers also need help,” he said.
West Pokot woman representative Rael Kasiwai says the main challenge is the boundary issue. It is no longer about cattle rustling but they want land,” she said.
More than 60 people have been killed, residents displaced and property destroyed in the troubled Kerio Valley region since the year began.
Affected schools in the region are Kases, Lonyanyalem, Pough, Kou, Takaiywa Primary.
This comes after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki visited the area on Thursday and ordered the reopening of all schools that were vandalized by bandits and armed criminals in West Pokot County. A total of seven schools closed a few years ago due to insecurity after bandits wreaked havoc along the border.
The government has allocated Kshs 100 million to restore the infrastructure in the schools like Cheptulel Boys and Girls, Samplomoi, Cheratek, Kases, Apollo, and Takaiywa primary.
Other schools that were partially affected to be supported to resume normalcy are Kissa, Ptoh, Kases, Takaywa, Lonyangalem, Pough primary schools and others.
The CS directed the establishment of Lami Nyeusi General Service Unit [GSU] Camp in Sigor Constituency.