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Inside the killing fields of Baringo

baringoThe drought ravaging many parts of Baringo has sparked conflicts between pastoralists in the county.

Two people were killed last week at Sirata in the cattle rustling-prone Mukutani division of Baringo South sub-county after Pokot and Tugen communities clashed.

The conflict between the two groups erupted after hundreds of Pokot herders invaded Mukutani in search of water and pasture for their livestock. This did not go down well with the Ilchamus, who seized some of the animals.

At the same time, leaders in the county have agreed that the government should roll out a massive disarmament programme in the area and neighbouring devolved units to arrest insecurity.

The leaders made the resolution during a meeting convened by Baringo Governor Benjamin Cheboi at the weekend at the Emining’ Hotel.

Tension in Mukutani is high following the killings. Thousands of residents have fled their homes in the volatile area. The raiders are said to be planning to strike again after their efforts to steal livestock last week were thwarted by the police, who engaged them in a fierce shootout.

The residents have taken refuge at various schools.

A Nation team that visited Sokotei Primary School last week, where more than 3,000 villagers are staying, saw women and children sleeping on floors.

A humanitarian crisis is looming in the area due to crowding at the schools. Families are forced to share classrooms, staffrooms and dormitories.

There are fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases.

“We have been abandoned and wonder if we are any lesser Kenyans. Young children are the worst hit as they are contracting flu. Mosquitoes are having a field day on expectant women and children at night,” said Ms Mary Salacha, one of the victims.

At the educational institutions, the residents are not assured of their security. The raiders could strike the schools and torch them. The armed raiders set ablaze 17 houses in Sirata last week.

According to Mr Ezra Tiren, a senior teacher at Sokotei Day Secondary School, they had to suspend learning as the residents had turned it into a camp.

“These people are living at the mercy of God. I have been making sure that they get safe drinking water but they have no food. There is a self-imposed curfew from 5pm to 7am,” Mr Tiren told the Nation.

Other schools that have been closed due to the crisis include Loitip, Lorok, Kiserian, Mukutani, Rugus and Noosukro.

The situation has been worsened by another incident in which members of the Pokot community set eight houses and two shops ablaze after being reportedly sidelined in the distribution of relief food by Red Cross.

Red Cross officials were distributing food to Ilchamus families who were recently displaced when their homes were torched by armed raiders. This angered the Pokot.

Baringo South sub-county Commissioner Saul Moywaywa toured the area in the company of Baringo police boss Hassan Barua and the county security team. They held a crisis meeting with the residents who were beginning to flee.

Mr Amos Olempaka, a human rights activist in the area, accused the government of being adamant in beef up security in the area.

“The residents are living in deplorable conditions and we call on humanitarian organisations to come to their rescue,” said Mr Olempaka.

The residents have criticised leaders in Tiaty sub-county for allegedly fuelling cattle rustling through their remarks.

They have singled out a 10-day ultimatum issued to the central government by Tiaty MP Asman Kamama for all livestock stolen from the Pokot to be surrendered.

INCITEMENT CLAIMS

Mr Kamama has, however, dismissed the incitement claims.

“If one community steals another’s livestock, they should return them unconditionally for peace to prevail. Our strength lies is in our peace and unity,” said Mr Kamama.

Baringo South MP Grace Kipchoim also criticised Mr Kamama’s ultimatum, which she termed shallow and uncalled for. She urged leaders from the Pokot community to desist from making remarks that could worsen the situation.

“Mr Kamama is talking as if insecurity started yesterday yet it has been a persistent problem. He should be reminded that being the chairman of a parliamentary committee on national security, he should speak for all Kenyans,” said Ms Kipchoim.

The weekend meeting in Baringo also resolved that the county government should set up a task force to look into the root cause of rampant cases of conflict among pastoralists in the area.

-nation

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