Sunday, September 15, 2013

Baragoi massacre: Kenya government yet to recover guns stolen from slain officers

Baragoi massacre: Kenya government yet to recover guns stolen from slain officers

Updated Sunday, September 15th 2013 at 16:44 GMT +3


Raiders know the government does not mean what it says and are emboldened to carry out more raids

Morans follow proceedings of a peace meeting in Silango. [PHOTO:

By Boaz Kipngeno

KENYA: Residents of Baragoi in Samburu County have for the second time defied orders from the government to surrender all illegal firearms, including those stolen during the Suguta Valley massacre where 42 police officers were killed.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku had in July issued a two-week ultimatum to whoever could be keeping the 48 guns lost during the massacre, saying failure to do so will compel the government to carry out forceful disarmament.

You have played with security matters so much but for this one, you have no option. You must return the guns and Samburu must be peaceful,€ said Lenku. The Cabinet Secretary said cattle raids have ruined the image of the country for long. Failure to do so (surrender the firearms) will compel the government to act and that will be destructive and painful.
However, months after the tough talk, the government is yet to embark on the forceful disarmament, with cattle rustling going on unabated. Residents have now despaired.
John Leterewa says they are used to such pronouncements.

These are hollow statements which we are used to. Raiders know that the government does not mean what it says and are emboldened to continue with raids,€ he says.

During Lenku’s visit in July, politicians from Turkana and Samburu counties requested for more time to look for a solution before the government steps in.

We request the minister to give us a little more time to engage our people through other means to end cattle rustling,€ said Samburu Governor Moses Lenolkulal. Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok said utilisation of available resources in the region and developing infrastructure such as roads and power may be the solution.

More than forty police officers were killed at Suguta Valley in July last year. Since then, different efforts have been made to end cattle rustling, poaching and highway banditry.

Peace meetings
The Samburu County Government plans to engage the neighbouring Baringo, Turkana and Marsabit counties to promote cohesion and peaceful coexistence. Peace meetings are held in different parts of the county by top security personnel and residents.

It is like a joke, a kind of sick joke. Go to Wamba, Maralal or any hospital in the region and count the number of casualties,€ said John Lenkulate, a resident of Baragoi.

During this year'€™s Madaraka Day celebrations at Kenyatta Stadium in Maralal Town, Samburu leaders asked the national government to account for the 42 guns stolen by bandits during the Baragoi massacre.

The leaders expressed concern that the national government has not taken any action to punish the bandits. If the government stays mum, the atrocities can't be stopped from recurring because they can be revenged, said Samburu North MP Alois Lentoimaga.

The leaders said reconciliation will not be realised when one community is in possession of 48 stolen guns and more than 3,500 bullets.

Pokot and Samburu communities live harmoniously in Lolmolog location where an exchange programme for primary school children in Longewan Primary School has been introduced to foster cohesion between the two communities. They have also jointly embarked on a programme to protect the area’s wildlife.

On the contrary, there is still animosity between Turkana and Samburu communities in the county. Recently a class three pupil at Masigita Primary School was killed by bandits believed to be from the Turkana community.

Police laxity
Residents accuse police officers in Baragoi of laxity, saying all they do is collect dead bodies after raids and confirm deaths. An officer says it is difficult to separate two communities in a fight because they are heavily armed. How can you go in between heavily armed bandits who know how to shoot just like you?  asked the officer.

He said he cannot risk his life “interfering in other people’s culture” trying to recover livestock while he owns none at home.

Kenya Police Reservists are common in the area. They are given guns by the government to protect their people against communal raids. However, some guns belonging to some KPR are believed to have landed in wrong hands and are being used in cattle rustling, poaching and highway banditry.

Samburu Central District OCPD Morris Assilah said there are 180 police reservists in the region 104 in Opiroi and 76 in Barsaloi.

During a peace meeting in Marti, Maralal Catholic Bishop Virgilio Pante of Maralal Diocese urged Turkana and Samburu communities to embrace peace. €œPeace cannot be achieved in one day and you don’t have to wait for peace from the government in Nairobi. When will you enjoy the blessings that God has bestowed in this land?€ he said.

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