THE TURKANA – POKOT SECURITY SITUATION
While thanking His Excellency the President for visiting Kapedo and for the rapid response, I want to start by strongly condemning and denouncing the cold-blooded killings by the Pokot of security officers and civilians that took place at Kasarani, between Lomelo and Kapedo in Turkana East Sub-county, Turkana County. I equally denounce the burning of 3 security vehicles along with KNEC examination papers for Kapedo Mixed secondary by the same bandits in the same place. All these incidents happened between 20-31 October 2014. During the same period I watched in disbelief as my colleague MP Baringo South, Hon Grace Kipchoim shed tears for the loss of lives in her constituency to the same raiders. I failed to understand whether we are in the same country and accorded the same regard by Government. [caption id="attachment_261" align="alignright" width="225"] Kapedo killings[/caption] Last year, the same area of Kasarani in Lomelo witnessed the burning of several civilian vehicles, the killing of several police officers including an OCS (Lokori Station), and the shooting of DC Lokori (Mr Elmi) who was almost killed. In separate recent incidents in Turkana South, four police officers were killed early this year at Kakongu by the Pokots. As I write this, the Pokots have encroached into Turkana land namely, Nadome, Lochwakula, Lorogon, Loyapat, Lokwar and the area between Kainuk and Kakongu in the name of good neighbourhood and search for pasture. We agree to this because every Kenyan has a right to live anywhere in this Republic. But what happens with our friends the Pokot - they will live with you in peace for as long as they still need the pastures, but on their departure they raid and kill forgetting that other periods of need will come. How do you explain yesterday's statements from Pokot leaders apologizing to the president and saying the killings were mistaken identity? In other words, "We thought these were killing our usual victims, the Turkana". As these words were spoken I saw some of their leaders unable to face up in disgrace. This again, leaves me with the question "Are the Pokots above the Law to have the guts to say such things infront of His Excellency the President?" I am writing this article not only as a legislator from the region but an insider, a person directly affected by this conflict, one who has lost 2 uncles, 3 nieces and a step mother to the Pokot killers. My family has lost 500 goats and 100 camels to Pokot rustlers. We moved from our ancestral pasture land to live in town for fear of attacks. The same could be true vice versa. I know Pokot will give the same testimony. [caption id="attachment_263" align="alignright" width="225"] 22 police officers killed in Kapedo, Turkana East[/caption] These few episodes are only a tip of the iceberg and characterize what has been happening for decades amongst these communities. Given the current trend of attacks and killings, one would genuinely ask: Why are the incidents prevalent with a higher frequency than before? What is happening with the Turkana – cowardice or simply overpowered being by the Pokot? My considered opinion is that, Yes, the Turkanas have been overwhelmed because they are a trusting lot. They adhere to the law and if they still practice cattle rustling, because I cannot rule it out, then theirs is still the traditional ancient one. The Pokots have gone several notches higher by i) commercializing the trade ii) organizing themselves under the command and support of some warlords, facilitators and inciters and iii) mobilizing their brothers from Uganda to strengthen their muscle. A senior Pokot politician recently appeared on media and blatantly said Pokot land stretches all the way to Ngamia One. This is open incitement because it is common knowledge that Ngamia One is over 100 km inside Turkana from the border. The impact of this conflict on both communities is untold: hundreds of lives lost every year, women widowed and children orphaned, hence increased destitution, female and child-headed households are on the increase and this has made it difficult for children to continue with education and families to acquire other basic services. Many schools have been either closed or displaced. Development Projects have stalled including Roads, water and irrigation. The main Kitale-Lodwar highway is impassable frustrating business and trade in both Turkana and Pokot. While the rest of the country's leadership is busy with development and progress, the leaders in these two counties spend all their time trading accusations, responding to security incidents, press conferences and generally playing security agents. These leaders attend to phone calls from constituents who report security incidents and blame them for not matching their counterparts. With its goodwill and commitment, the state has the ability to stop the ruthless brutal killings that are based on primitive and barbaric practices of these communities. The state is the key duty bearer in protecting the lives and property of citizens. But for many years, Kenyan governments beginning from the colonial and the four post-colonial governments have sat back and watched the Turkana and the Pokot butcher each other. It has been a stereotype of "these communities with war tendencies are in their usual fights and cattle rustling". If the government addressed and managed conflicts in Mt. Elgon, Lamu, Tana River and North Eastern, including handling MRC and Alshabaab, what is so special about the Turkana-Pokot conflict that it cannot be confronted? The government should put human life ahead of votes. Let's lose the votes and save lives if that is the cost. But to me, this Government will get a plus if it brings this conflict to an end. Kenyans are tired of same sad stories daily.
My proposal to the Jubilee Government
- The on-going security operation must continue, or if aspects have been halted – should resume immediately until the region stabilizes. It should target all bandits irrespective of ethnicity.
- Investigate and address the issue of 'insurgents' from Uganda who are worsening the situation. The entry of Ugandan Pokots into Kenya should be controlled.
- The Turkana-Pokot conflict is generally resource-based (water, pasture, land) and politically instigated. However, the current conflict focuses more on land ownership and boundaries. I therefore call upon the government to immediately demarcate county borders particularly in contentious regions. The 1964 Kenyan map has clearly shown the limits of each county but the expansionists are defying it.
- Create security buffer zones along the border of the warring communities. Deployment of adequate forces (RDU, ASTU and GSU) in strategic areas along the border will suffice. They should be supplied with the necessary equipment namely armored vehicles and helicopters.
- Borrow leave from Uganda which has disarmed the Karamoja thus eradicating cattle rustling in the region – by disarming both the Turkana and Pokot but also liaise with the neighbouring countries of South Sudan and Ethiopia for a possible regional disarmament of all pastoralists at the borders.
- Finally and most importantly, free the position of Chairman, Parliamentary Committee on Administration and Internal Security from any of the warring communities namely: Turkana, Pokot, Samburu and Tugen. The current chairman is a Pokot and the vice chairman is a Samburu. There is NO WAY fairness and justice can be realized when the chairman of security is an interested party. We need a neutral person to chair this critical docket.