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Bullets and Smokes in Kenya’s Laikipia County

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By Joab Apollo

For one week now, the people of Laikipia County, in the Rift Valley region of Kenya, have known no peace. Bandits armed with sophisticated weapons have been shooting residents and torching houses with gleeful abandon. Not even livestock, schools and churches have been spared in these gory scenes reminiscent of an ethnic pogrom.

They are perpetrating this ostensibly to secure grazing pasture for their livestock and in demand for their fellow herdsmen who have been missing, but residents see an intricate political web.

At least 50 homes have been reduced to ashes, 150 people condemned to Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps and 10 people killed, including two police officers, as the nomadic Pokot tribe run riot.

Distressed locals have hit out at the government for neglecting them, but Rift Valley Regional Coordinator, George Natembeya is breathing fire and brimstone.

“We cannot allow criminals to continue terrorising innocent people. We know their motive is to evict people from this area and the government will not allow this to happen.” He warned.

Consequently, various local leaders, including current Tiaty Member of Parliament, William Kamket, were arrested and interrogated in connection to the skirmishes. They have been accused of silently inciting violence in the region.

The National Security Council (NSC) chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta imposed a dawn to dusk curfew at the Laikipia Nature Conservancy and declared it a Security Operation Area.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi announced deployment of the elite security forces in the area as Pokot elders call for dialogue. Religious leaders have called for a truce.

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It’s not the first time the Pokot herdsmen have been linked to ethnic attacks. They have terrorised their neighbours in the past, stealing cattle and committing murder. And despite security onslaught by the state, their aggression has not stopped.

Will they be tamed this time round? Well, it remains a matter of wait and see.

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