The government has ordered people living in bandit hideouts in parts of Samburu, Turkana, Laikipia and Baringo counties to vacate within 24 hours to pave way for the second phase of the ongoing security operation in the northern region.
Speaking at the Malaso escarpments in Samburu West Sub County, Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Prof. Kithure Kindiki also banned low altitude overflights from private owned aircrafts in these areas with immediate effect.
He said that the government has established that heavily armed bandits are holed up in difficult terrains in remote and inaccessible areas where they hide after stealing livestock and killing innocent Kenyans.
“The bandits are living with unarmed civilians especially women and children whom we suspect are family members and use them as human shields in the event they engage with our security forces. We are providing a 24-hour window period for unarmed civilians to vacate,” he said.
Kindiki noted that despite the ongoing security operation in disturbed and dangerous areas of Samburu, Laikipia, Baringo, Turkana, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet, in the last one week heavily armed bandits have killed 12 people in Samburu West and six people in Tot area in Elgeyo Marakwet County and in the last seven months over 135 innocent Kenyans including 20 police officers have been killed.
“The criminal elements have continued to taunt and dare the government and their activities have been supported all along by a toxic mix of bad terrain, weapon supply and banditry leadership. There are hundreds of heavily armed bandits hiding in remote and inaccessible areas at the bottom of gorges, escarpments, caves and ravines, some in the middle of hills spread across this region,” the CS said.
The bandits’ haven that have been declared scenes of crimes and must be vacated in Samburu County are Ltungai, Longewan, Nasur, Lochokia and Lekador escarpments, Lolmolog caves, Malaso escarpments, Pura valley, Suguta valley and the escarpment from Marti to Ltungai.
The vacate order in Baringo County was issued in Korkor hills, Tandare valley, and Silale gorges while in Turkana Nadome and Kamur caves, Kapelbok, Nakomoru, Lekobat, Ombolion and the Takwel escarpments at the interface of West Pokot and Turkana counties.
In Laikipia County, unarmed civilians were ordered to vacate from Mkogodo forest, Kamwenje, Warero and Ndungu riwo, Lekuruki hills, Losos and Kiape caves as well as Seku valley.
The CS said that they have identified a handful of senior commanders in charge of the bandit network as well as their spiritual leaders, political patrons and the commercial beneficiaries of bandit gangs.
“In a short while, we shall be circulating the names and photographs of those supporting banditry. The government will also offer monetary rewards to members of the public who will offer information that will lead to successful arrests of these dangerous elements,” he added.
At the same time, Prof. Kindiki appealed for patriotic solidarity of all Kenyans and the friends of Kenya and all stakeholders to isolate criminals and draw a line between them and the rest of us.
“At a solemn moment like this when our nationhood is being tested, its either you are with us or with the bandits; there is no in between. More than ever the victims of banditry require collective consciousness and support. They deserve protection from the government,” he said.
By Robert Githu