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Police fuelling banditry in Samburu

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By PAUL LETIWA
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Bullets used by the National Police Service are so easily available at Marti trading centre in Samburu County that this writer was able to buy three of them in less than 30 minutes.

After months of investigations, the culmination of our quest was surprisingly quick and easy.

Our aim was to ensure we knew who to contact and where to go in the punishing terrain across the semi-arid region.

When the call finally came, we travelled out of Maralal town on the road that leads to Baragoi.

Through our link man, we bought bullets used in AK-47 rifles and commonly called tracer.

All the bullets have Kenya Ordinance Factory Corporation (KOFC) labels. They are supposed to be reserved only for the police, military and other security agencies. One bullet goes for Sh450.

As proven customers, we were also offered an AK-47 assault rifle that goes for Sh130,000. We refused. And immediately after buying the bullets, we handed them over to Samburu County commissioner John Korir.

Sources in Samburu say the selling of bullets to armed bandits and cattle rustlers is common in the area that hardly goes a day without an incident of cattle rustling.

Bandits, who reign supreme on the Maralal-Baragoi road, are also buyers.

This means each of the bullets is capable of ending the life of an innocent child grazing livestock or walking to school or a mother fetching water or others who travel on the dangerous highway.

Police in Maralal town are said to sell bullets to middlemen, who later sell them to armed herders in the vast Marti Esiteti forest and other desolate areas for profit. And bullet prices go up every time there is conflict between the Turkana and Samburu communities. The price of a bullet is determined by the distance the buyer has to walk to get to the seller.

This means that if the buyer lives in Nachola, about 150km from Maralal on the Samburu-Turkana border, the price will go up. In times of conflict, the prices can shoot up to Sh600 per bullet.

Marti Esiteti, described by many as a battleground, is located about 60km from Lomerok village, near the Suguta Valley, where more than 40 police officers were killed by bandits in November 2012.

Samburu, Turkana and Pokot counties have had decades of conflicts involving cattle raids. Most herders here own illegal guns.

And they use them to herd their cattle.

Acquiring a gun, ammunition and other small arms in these regions is relatively easy. That has created an increasingly militarised society in the arid north.

Our link man said police bullets are sold in Maralal, Baragoi, Barsaloi, Marti and other areas vulnerable to cattle raids. Mr Korir, the Samburu County commissioner, said the matter is under investigation and any police officers found to be involved will face the law.

“If the police are selling bullets, that simply means they are aiding cases of banditry and cattle rustling in this area. I will personally investigate the matter, bullets belong to security forces (and not) civilians,” said Mr Korir.

In Maralal, you only need a few connections and the bullets will be delivered to you at any time. All you need to do is to confirm your location and have the money handy as well as “tea” (cash inducement) for the person who is delivering the goods to you.

Maralal police boss Abbagara Guyo denied knowledge of the practice in the service.

But our investigations reveal that some officers have either abetted cattle raids or actively participated in them.



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