The Government is preparing for a massive security operation to mop-up illegal guns in the restive Kerio Valley, where more than 30 people have been killed in the past three months.
Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS), Fred Matiang’I, announced the imminent disarmament on Friday, warning that it will be “firm and painful”.
Addressing the media after holding deliberations on the security situation in the Kerio Valley with elected leaders from the region at a Nakuru hotel, Dr Matiang’i said counties targeted in the operation include; West Pokot, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet.
He asked leaders in regions earmarked for the operation to persuade residents to surrender illegal firearms.
“It will be painful but we have to do it for the sake of innocent Kenyans. These guns are the root cause of banditry and are being used to fuel communal conflicts. We have to remove them and restore peace,” he stressed.
More than 1,000 people have fled their homes in the region after a series of raids by armed bandits that left behind a trail of death and livestock losses.
Present at the deliberations were Interior Principal Secretary (PS), Karanja Kibicho, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Linah Jebii Kilimo, West Pokot Governor, Professor John Lonyangapuo, his Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo counterparts, Alex Tolgos and Stanley Kiptis respectively and Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.
Members of Parliament (MPs) present included William Cheptumo (Baringo North), William Kamket (Tiaty) and Charles Kamuren (Baringo South).
Dr Matiang’i said security deployments had been doubled along the Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot border, adding that five platoons of special General Service Unit personnel had been dispatched to Kerio Valley ahead of the operation that kicks-off on Sunday the 6th.
He revealed that a new Anti-Stock Theft Police camp would be established at Chesongon along the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties to bolster security in the region to curb armed cattle rustling incidents.
“We have also made security redeployments in Baringo North and Baringo South to enable those who have fled their homes due to insecurity to go back. We are asking those illegally occupying other people’s properties to vacate immediately,” the CS affirmed.
Dr Matiang’i stated that the State was keen to operationalize all the administrative areas of Baringo North, Baringo South and parts of Elgeyo Chief’s Camp which do not have Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs to enable residents to access government services.
“We have agreed with respective County Commissioners to review the regions that have not been operationalized, so that we start appointing Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs alongside other public servants, so that they start rendering services,” he added.
Dr Matiang’i assured parents in affected regions that schools would be reopened and assigned heightened security.
The Inspector General of Police, noted the CS, had already mapped out notorious hotspots for armed criminal activities within Kerio Valley, with a view of establishing more security outposts.
Mr Murkomen said the leaders had agreed that they will not defend individuals involved in criminal activities, adding that elected persons and aspiring candidates who will engage in hate speech and incitement, should be held culpable.
Governor Lonyangapuo stated the group had resolved to start conversations with residents of Kerio Valley on the need for peaceful coexistence.
By Jane Ngugi and David Opingo