Kapedo infamy, tussle to what end?

On October 31, 2014 the country woke up to the sad news of 21 police officers killed by armed bandits in Kapedo.

After the attack, Kapedo rose to infamy and whenever it is mentioned, images of slain soldiers’ bodies come to mind. But that is not all, whether the area belongs to Turkana or Baringo county has become a bone of contention.

Turkana county commissioner Seif Matata says administrative maps show the area is under his jurisdiction, adding that administration officers, including the chief and the assistant county commissioner stationed at Kapedo, report to Lodwar, Turkana county headquarters.

“Kapedo chief and the assistant county commissioner are under Turkana administration,” he said, adding that Kapedo/Napeitom MCA Willy Nalimo also reports to Turkana County Assembly.

Despite the conflict between the Turkana and Pokot communities having existed for decades, Matata says the causes of the conflicts have changed over time.

“What began as a conflict over water and pasture for livestock in areas such as Kasarani and Lokori has degenerated into a boundary dispute characterised by cattle rustling,” he said.

Discovery of other resources including diatomite, geothermal energy and other minerals believed to exist in the area, has also heightened the conflict.

For example, Kapedo is home to a 150-metre waterfall that has warm water from Silale Hills, and believed to treat skin conditions.

 “All the resource-based conflicts grew into the current, bigger boundary dispute,” he said.

Cases of cattle rustling have recently been reported in the area prompting residents and area leaders, including Governor Josphat Nanok and Turkana South MP James Lomemen, to demand action from the National government.

The leaders recently condemned the killing of two people, who were travelling in a truck from Lokori to Kapedo in Turkana East sub-county last month.  They want the Inspector General of  Police Joseph Boinnet, who toured Turkana last week to intervene.

Boinnet assured  residents the government was in control of the security situation in the county.

Matata said insecurity in the county has reduced significantly compared to the previous two years and attributed the change to the deployment of General Service Unit and Rapid Deployment Unit police officers to Kapedo, Lomelo and Lokori.

“We have also increased the number of police reservists, which has reduced raids,” he said.

One of the main challenges he is grappling with, he said, are the cases of bandit attacks on the Lodwar-Kitale highway.

Police have arrested four suspects in connection with the highway robbery and the suspects have been arraigned in court.

In the past, Turkana Central MP John Lodepe called for murder of those found guilty of highway robbery, saying they were sabotaging the county economy.

Turkana largely depends on foodstuff and construction materials, among others, from Kitale.

A few days after the Kapedo attack, a speaker at a baraza attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta was forced to cut short his speech after he said the attackers were not targeting police officers but members of a neighbouring community, which shows the fragility of the local communities as accusations of wrongdoing between them have often resulted to  full-blown violence.  

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