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Tension in Isiolo after resurgence of bandit attacks

by kenya-tribune

Tension is building up in Mlango, Burat ward in Isiolo North constituency, following last weekend’s killing of four people in two separate attacks.

Two suspected cattle rustlers said to have come from Samburu County were Friday morning shot dead as they attempted to raid the area where there is a grazing reserve for local Turkana, Borana and Somali communities.

In the second incident on Saturday suspected to be a retaliatory attack, one person was killed and two others injured after armed men raided the village. One of the injured died yesterday at the Isiolo Referral Hospital.

While a contingency of police officers has already been deployed to the area, residents have started shunning the LMD-Mlango-Oldonyiro stretch for fear of being attacked.

The government had closed Ngarendare and Tenge markets indefinitely in an effort to end the rising banditry and robbery along the road.
Over 10 non-local teachers working in schools in Oldonyiro have in the recent past been robbed of valuables worth thousands of shillings with majority of those affected said to have applied for transfers to other safe areas.

Residents and local leaders have appealed to the government to expedite establishment of a General Service Unit (GSU) camp in the area, promised by Interior CS Kithure Kindiki when he visited the county last December.

Senator Fatuma Dullo earlier blamed illegal herders for the rising attacks and demanded they voluntarily leave or be ejected. She said they were crossing over to Isiolo in the guise of seeking pastures only to unleash terror on host communities.

“It is sad that after welcoming them, they turn against our people, maim, kill and steal from them,” she said.

Prof Kindiki recently announced that more than 100 National Police Reservists would be recruited and deployed across the county to augment police efforts in tackling insecurity that has claimed dozens of lives and resulted in loss of thousands of animals in the recent past.

The security team has been accused of not acting promptly on intelligence reports, with residents saying many of the attacks could be prevented if police respond quickly.

Ruthless operation

The local security team earlier warned of a tough operation in the area if the situation failed to improve.

A disconnect between security teams in Isiolo and Samburu, which are expected to work together, is also hampering government’s efforts to tame lawlessness in the region.

Scarcely will both teams work together to arrest culprits and pursue stolen animals, with the Isiolo team complaining several times over what they say is lack of goodwill from the Samburu neighbours, who, Nation has learnt, have on some occasions snubbed joint security meetings.

There has also been concern over inadequate police officers to cover the vast county covering 25,336 square kilometres, with leaders calling for more officers be deployed to insecurity prone areas.

Mr Abdi Mohammed, a resident, said despite assurances by police that measures were in place to avert attacks, the criminals continued to perpetuate violence, leaving families suffering.

“The attacks mostly occur on Isiolo side and despite the sustained assurances that peace would resume, the criminals raid, maim and kill more,” he lamented, saying failure to address the menace was slowly turning the county into a battlefield.

But what’s the motive behind the unending attacks?

Competition over resources, expansionist agenda and political intrigues are among the contributors of conflicts among pastoralists in Isiolo and neighbouring counties.

While it would be assumed the current attacks are aimed at taking over local grazing fields or watering points due to the prolonged drought, a section of the leaders feels otherwise.

Local youth leader Osman Shariff says the current attacks have nothing to do with pastures but are meant to displace people from their lands.

“They want to evict our people from their ancestral lands so that they benefit from upcoming mega government projects such as Resort City,” Mr Shariff says, while calling for a thorough investigation to establish if attacks are politically motivated.

Some of the residents have already fled their homes for fear of attacks.

Area MCA Nicholas Lorot said more than 25 people have been killed in the ward in the recent past and called for quick establishment of a police unit to curb the attacks.

Isiolo County Commissioner Geoffrey Omoding maintained that herders in need of pastures must first seek permission from host communities before crossing over to the county, warning that those defying the directive would be ruthlessly dealt with.

“We will ruthlessly deal with the criminals and flush out the illegal herders,” he said.

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