Leaders link reservists to Kerio Valley banditry

Winstone Chiseremi @Wchiseremi

In what reeks of irony and contempt for the rule of law, police reservists deployed last year to help restore peace in banditry-prone North Rift have been linked to runaway insecurity in the region. The claims were made during a day-long joint peace meeting that brought together political and religious leaders as well as professionals from West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counties.

The meeting was convened by Kerio Valley Development Authority in Eldoret town on Monday. Participants, including Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and several MPs, said the government erred in deploying the armed reservists to complement security agents, especially in Kerio Valley, where more than 120 people have been killed in the past one year in cattle raids.

The leaders also decried the lack of command structure to guide the reservists, whom they claimed had turned into “community home guards who have never conducted a joint operation with other security agents”.

Tolgos, however, said the reservists were demoralised, and urged the government to pay them. “The government needs to pay the police reservists before they start to vet them afresh and put them under a command structure. Businessmen exchanging guns for livestock should be arrested because they are responsible for fuelling the banditry in Kerio Valley,” he said.

Marakwet West MP William Kisang accused reservists of protecting their communities instead of being impartial in the operation to wipe out cattle rustling menace. “There is urgent for the government to withdraw all guns in hands of civilians as one way of bringing peace and security in volatile areas,” he said.

On his part, Kapenguria MP Samuel Moroto asked the government to deploy the military in areas deserted after renewed attacks to facilitate the resumption of learning in schools.

“The security problem along the border of West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet counties has reached unmanageable level and we need the intervention of the military to restore peace,” said Moroto.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pupils in Kerio Valley yesterday held demonstrations over escalating insecurity that has led to the closure of 20 schools. The children, accompanied by teachers, converged at Tot Primary School to seek audience of government officials.

Marakwet East MP Kangogo Bowen has asked Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i to visit the region and help restore security. “If all students drop out of school, we shall be breeding a new crop of cattle rustlers,” he said.

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