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Bishop And Activist Calls For End To Rights Abuses In Kapedo

Bishop Dominic Kimengich
Bishop Dominic Kimengich addresses reporters at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County, on January 29, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Eldoret Catholic Bishop Dominic Kimengich said the Kenya Red Cross, churches and other humanitarian agencies have been barred from the area.
  • Civil society groups, professionals and locals say the methods used by security teams in the disarmament are unorthodox and have demanded independent investigations.

Security teams involved in the disarmament operation in Kapedo on the Turkana-Baringo border have been accused of human rights abuses.

Eldoret Catholic Bishop Dominic Kimengich said the Kenya Red Cross, churches and other humanitarian agencies have been barred from the area.

“Many innocent children, women, young people and the disabled are suffering at the hands of security forces,” the bishop said in Eldoret yesterday.

A postmortem on the six bodies found in a bush in Tiaty, Baringo county, revealed they were tortured before being shot dead.

The examination was done by Dr Wangare Wambui and supervised by Mr Titus Ngulungu, who was acting for the Independent Medico Legal Unit.

Security chiefs, however, dismiss the accusations.

Police spokesman Charles Owino denied reports of extrajudicial killings, saying 35 illegal firearms were seized and seven people apprehended.

“We have asked Kapedo locals to surrender illicit arms,” he said.

Mr Owino accused communities of turning against police officers and reservists.

“Cattle rustling has been commercialised. It is the wealthy and influential people financing the crime. Today’s rustlers are criminals for hire,” he said.

Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya also denied reports of killings, saying the six might had been caught in a crossfire as they attempted to drive away stolen animals.

Mr Natembeya told the Nation that there was an attack in Chemorongion on the day more than 50 cows were stolen by a group suspected to be from Tiaty, Baringo county.

Unorthodox methods

Bishop Kimengich said the criminals being hunted have already fled Kapedo.

Civil society groups, professionals and locals say the methods used by security teams in the disarmament are unorthodox and have demanded independent investigations.

The current conflict in Kapedo has claimed 10 lives, including four security officers.

“Families have been rendered homeless after their houses were burnt and livestock killed. Strangely, the government has remained silent,” Mr Judah Losutan, a Kapedo resident, said.

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“The many security operations in this region have yielded nothing because the tactics used by the government are wrong. You cannot get guns by harassing civilians.”

He added that General Service Unit, Rapid Deployment Unit, Anti-Stock Theft Unit and regular police officers are sabotaging the local economy by razing buildings and killing livestock.

Tiaty sub-county headquarters Chemoling’ot and Silale have become ghost towns.

A communication mast in Silale no longer works and power in the two towns has been switched off.

Lobbies have demanded the involvement of all stakeholders in the disarmament.

Centre Against Torture official Kimutai Kurui urged the government to arrest politicians suspected of fanning violence.

Uasin Gishu County Civil Societies chairman Philip Barno told leaders to stop politicising Kapedo insecurity.

“The government can easily eliminate insecurity in Kapedo. Local leaders should stop using the situation to drive their political agenda,” Mr Barno said.

Possible court case

A group of professionals has threatened to sue the State.

“We will move to court to bring that punitive, reactionary and ill-advised operation to a halt. The government has trampled on the Bill of Rights,” group leader Dennis Kapchok said.

The professionals faulted the scorched earth policy being applied by security forces.

“Shops have either been shut or gutted. Hundreds of displaced families cannot get medical services, clean water, food and education,” Mr Kapchok added.

More than 2,500 families in Kapedo face starvation as they cannot get food from Marigat and Kabarnet towns, fearing attacks.

“The households are in need of food and other basics,” Rift Valley Kenya Red Cross Society coordinator Vivian Kibon said.

Mr Natembeya said officers escorting vehicles to and from Marigat are also involved in the disarmament.

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He said the government would provide relief to needy families in Kapedo “as we have done in the past”.

Locals interviewed said they cannot walk freely even during the day for fear of being harassed by police.

“We cannot graze our animals or look for food. People are afraid of remaining in their houses too. We spend our nights in the bushes with the children for fear of being assaulted or even killed by police,” a man who insisted on remaining anonymous, told the Saturday Nation.

“The shops are either closed, burnt or deserted. We have depleted our food supplies and nobody can dare go to Chemolingot, Marigat and other towns. One can be assaulted by bandits or security officers.”

Severe consequences

According to Kapedo residents, the security officers “are on high alert and they beat anyone they come across, burn houses and shoot livestock”.

The residents say schools, shops and hospitals have been shut down.

Women interviewed said they and their children cannot get medical services.

Baringo County Police Commander Robinson Ndiwa recently said the operation to flush out bandits and find illegal firearms does not target a particular community as claimed by a number of local leaders.

He said criminals are the target “and we will not be deterred by what others are saying”.

“Unless the bandits surrender the illegal guns, we will continue to engage them. Security agencies will deal with the situation as it evolves,” the police commander said.

Mr Ndiwa said proliferation of firearms in the region is a major setback to peace efforts and development.

The massive disarmament is being carried in Ameyan, Paka, Silale, Nadome, Kapau, Chesitet and Kapedo.

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