Border schools deserted as Marakwet-Pokot conflict escalates

County director of Education tells tutors not to abandon duty as security is being enhanced by State

More than 100 teachers from public primary and secondary schools at the volatile Chesegon area along the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties have fled the region over personal safety of their lives.

The tutors took the move following last week’s deadly attack in the area where five people were killed, six injured and 300 animals stolen by a group of heavily armed cattle rustlers.

Tension heightened in the affected area for the whole of last week, with fear of revenge mission from the Pokot community in pursuit to recover livestock stolen by their Marakwet neighbours.The fate of hundreds of learners among them this years’ Kenya Certificate of  Primary Education (KCPE) and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) candidates hangs in the balance barely a week after schools across the country pened for the first term in 2018.

Most learners— especially from the primary levels— have fled to the Rift Valley escarpments with their parents for fear of fresh attacks by the aggrieved communities.

The schools affected by the teachers’ move to withdraw their services include Kapkobil, Kapkain, Sambalat, Chebilil, Sangach, Kaplatemet and Liter primary and secondary schools.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Marakwet branch executive secretary John Cheberi accused the government of taking too long to reach the area to restore law and order. He asked the teachers to keep off schools until their safety is guaranteed by the State. 

“Tension remains high among the warring Marakwet and Pokot communities,” he said. “We do not want our union members to be caught in crossfire in the impending attack by the aggrieved Pokot community members in their quest to recover their stolen animals,” added Cheberi.

He said from the past experience on retaliatory attacks pitting the warring communities, Pokot community revenge is often brutal, leading to loss of lives and property.

Pokot community elders had given their Marakwet counterparts a seven-day ultimatum to return their animals or face unspecified action upon expiry of the deadline.

Cheberi implored security officers to enhance patrols along the borders of the two counties to avert more bloodshed. “All learning programmes in public schools are set to suffer seriously due to heightened tension in the area and the government should move with speed and assure the teachers, learners and residents of their security,” he said.

The Knut official lashed out at Marakwet politicians over their silence regarding the deterioration of security in the region. “There is urgent need for all stakeholders to come together and fomulate sustainable measures to address the decades-long conflicts over cattle, water and pasture,” said Cheberi.

Elgeyo Marakwet County Director of Education Joseph Wamocho pleaded with the affected teachers not to abandon their duties, saying the government has already taken security measures to ensure calm returns to the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties.

Wamocho said he has been assured through several stakeholders’ meeting, they have been holding chaired by county Commissioner Fredrick Ndambuki that there was no cause for alarm over the safety of teachers and pupils in the area.  “We have been having security challenges along the border, but for now the security situation is under control and I ask teachers not to withdraw their services,” said Wamocho.

The Marakwet East Deputy County Commissioner Stephen Sangolo said the affected areas were now under control and there should be no fear of insecurity by fleeing residents. “The government is in control of the security situation along the border and I urge families who had fled their homes to come back,” said Sangolo.

Meanwhile, Stephen Cheboi, national chairman of NGOs in Kenya, has urged the residents of Kerio Valley and other neighbouring Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot, Baringo and others in the North Rift counties to co-exist with each other. 

“We urge leaders in the region to convene peace meetings and bring their people together to share peace messages,” he said.

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