Kenya

Inside the Laikipia warzone

Inside the Laikipia warzone

Both large-scale and smallholder farmers, ranch and conservancy owners in troubled Laikipia County have been turned into prisoners in their own land.

For the past few months, they have borne the brunt of a series of attacks that have led to loss of lives, grabbing and destruction of property— including torching of schools and homes.

Large scale farmers, mainly Kenyans of British origin, do not dare to venture out of their homes as the attackers rule the land, armed with sophisticated weapons— including AK-47, spears and poisoned arrows.

The attackers are having a field day intimidating owners of ranches, opening fire indiscriminately, killing and stealing livestock under the nose of security contingents of security officers.

Laikipia bandits

Security officers and villagers at some of the homes that were set ablaze by suspected armed bandits at Kisii Ndogo village in Ol Moran area, Laikipia County on September 5, 2021.

Photo credit: Steve Njuguna | Nation Media Group

Not even the massive land and aerial operation launched yesterday by the Kenya Defence Forces, Anti-Stock Theft Unit, the Rapid Deployment Unit and the General Service Unit can scare them.

Emboldened by heavy guns, youthful bravado and a superior understanding of the terrain, they have been actively seeking confrontation.

Read: Bandits torch school in Laikipia as tension builds

Yesterday, in broad daylight, they torched Mirigwit Primary School in Laikipia West, as tension continued to build up in the area, for the seventh day.

In the brazen attack, the bandits torched the institution, before engaging security officers in a brief gunfight. They then fled to nearby bushes.

The attack happened as Rift Valley Regional Coordinator George Natembeya launched a security operation about four kilometres in Ol Moran town.

According to Mr Natembeya, the criminals use heavy and sophisticated firearms.

“While our officers are using AK47 and G3 rifles. They are using M16 and other heavy rifles which are usually used by the army from outside countries, when they come to train in Kenya. We don’t know how they get these weapons, but it is an issue that needs investigation,” Mr Natembeya told the Nation.

With no intention of surrendering, the attackers seem to be calling for back-ups and engaging security officers in guerilla warfare.

“They have been engaging in guerrilla warfare tactics because they know the terrain well. They launch attacks and then hide in maize plantations and the expansive Laikipia Nature Conservancy. They are like a militia,” said John Maina, an affected resident.

Other residents interviewed describe the attacks as brazen and systematic.

Ol Moran

Ruins of a house that was set ablaze by suspected armed bandits at Kisii Ndogo village in Ol Moran area, Laikipia County on September 5, 2021.

Photo credit: Steve Njuguna | Nation Media Group

Read: CS Matiang'i announces curfew, security operation in parts of Laikipia

“The attackers normally launch attacks during the night. Despite the heavy presence of security personnel from various formations, attacks continue to happen. They have also stolen our livestock leaving us with nothing,” said a teary Mary Wambui who fled her home with her family and is now sheltering at Ol Moran Deliverance Church.

“Since they settled, herders have been accusing us of taking their pasture and land. Now they have come to take over the place.”

Laikipia

Police officers patrol Merigwiti area after the bandits torched a primary school in the area on September 7, 2021.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

So far, six learning institutions have since been closed in the area. The schools include Survey, Mirango, Ndunyu Loi, Magadi and Mirigwite primary schools and Survey Secondary.

In Laikipia North, the trespassers invaded Mugie Ranch, Kirimon, Suiyan and Loisaba before they were flushed from most of the private properties by security officers.

Laikipia is a land of striking beauty but recently, the breathtaking majesty of its vistas has been soaked in blood.

There does not seem to be a simple, neat explanation for what ails it.

What first started as invasions of private ranches and conservancies in Laikipia North early this year, quickly mutated into open warfare which quickly spread to Laikipia West.

The heavily armed trespassers from Samburu, Baringo and Isiolo counties first invaded private properties in Laikipia North, with thousands of livestock.

The trespassers have now turned Laikipia West into a battle field— leaving a trail of destruction and loss of lives.

Ol Moran

A woman wails next to her house that was reduced to rubble yesterday after bandits set homes ablaze in Ol Moran in Laikipia County on  September 4, 2021.


Photo credit: Steve Njuguna | Nation Media Group

The most affected areas in Laikipia West include Ol Moran, Wangwachi, Kamwenje, Miteta, Village 18 and the Laikipia Nature Conservancy.

In the past one week, six people have been killed and others left nursing serious injuries.

The attackers do not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity or social standing, and in what appears to be systematic invasions, they push their way into small plots belonging mostly to Kikuyu freeholders in the West, to the tens of thousands of acres belonging to white settlers spread out all over the county.

In Ol Moran, the epicenter of recent bloodbath, they have chased land owners out of their homes, and made it impossible for them to return.

On Tuesday, tension continued to build up in the region for the seventh day, as villagers fled their homes to safer areas for fear of further attacks.

Read: Locals flee as bandits torch 50 houses in Ol Moran, Laikipia

On Sunday night, another person was shot dead by armed bandits at Mikinduri village in Ol Moran, bringing to six the number of people who have been killed in one week.

Peter Njuguna, 46, died on the spot when armed bandits attacked the village located two kilometres from Ol Moran township.

Merigwiti Primary School in Laikipia West

Police officers pursuing bandits who torched Merigwiti Primary School in Laikipia West on September 7, 2021.

Photo credit: Cheboite Kigen | Nation Media Group

His brother, George Ndung'u, said his blood relative had sought refuge at his home after he fled together with his families from Mirigwite village that had been attacked the previous day.

"He had fled together with his wife and five children and sought refuge at my home. On Sunday night, the armed bandits attacked and forced themselves to a house where he was sleeping together with his son and shot him in front of his son who was hiding under the bed, “explained a teary Mr Ndun'gu.

His traumatised son said that his father had offered the over 10 men bandits money and pleaded with them to spare his life but they would later shoot him on the chest after taking the cash. He died on the spot.

The family is currently seeking refuge at the Ol Moran Catholic Church.

Several metres in the neighbourhood, Mr David Kerore was left with gunshot wounds on the hand and chest after the bandits attacked his home and spread his house with bullets.

His wife Damaris Kerore said the criminals raided their home some minutes to 9pm and made away with four calves and sheep.

"The shot my husband leaving him for the dead. I am, however happy that he survived the attack," she said. He is recuperating at the Ol Moran Health centre.

Hundreds of residents are now camping at the Ol Moran township, Ol Moran Catholic Church and Ol Moran Police Station.