KAPENGURIA, Kenya – More than 3,000 people have fled homes in remote villages of Kapelipok and Kaptir in Turkana, in Kenya’s Rift Valley as tension heightens over the killing of seven local herders by Pokot cattle rustlers.

Aid workers said on Monday that several Turkana tribesmen were moving away from their homes fearing more attacks from Pokot warriors. Heavily armed Pokot warriors struck Kapelipok watering point and shot dead seven Turkana among them a Kenya police reservist. The over 200 Pokot warriors armed with rifles attacked two areas and ambushed local herders who were watering their animals.

Eliud Emeri, an official with the Greater Turkana Civil Society Network said that several villagers in Nakwamoru, Kaptir, Lokwaar and Kogito were fleeing their homes to safe areas in Kakong and Kainuk. Emeri said up to 3,000 people have abandoned their homes and taken refuge at Kalemongorok and Kainuk trading centres. “The families are moving in big numbers fearing for more attacks from the Pokot warriors. People are scared and are not taking chances as tension is building,” said the official after visiting the displaced villagers.

Turkana South District Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said the warriors from Pokot North district struck Kapelipok and surrounded the herders prompting a fierce gun battle between the attackers and Kenya police reservists. The raiders stole over 1,500 head of cattle and escaped with them towards Ombolion area in Pokot North district. The official said security forces have launched operation to flush out bandits and recover the stolen cattle.

“Security operation is going on as we speak and security forces have sealed off remote areas where the stolen cattle are hidden,” said Kanyiri who is coordinating the operation. The official confirmed growing tension along the border of the two ethnic communities but could not verify the number of the people fleeing their homes. “It is true tension is high but the figure given of people who have fled their homes could not that high,” he told Xinhua.

Turkana South lawmaker Josephat Nanok and former Turkana Central lawmaker Immanuel Imana claimed that the attacks were political and aimed at pushing away the Turkanas from land along the common border claimed by Pokots. “We would resist this kind of tactics by Pokot leaders to grab our land. The government should move in and address the problem to stop these senseless killings,” said the Nanok, who is an Assistant Minister for Forestry and Wildlife.

Meanwhile, Pokot leaders have accused the Kenya Energy Generating Company (Ken-Gen) for failure to resume operations at Turkwel Hyro-electric plant after the government restored security. The leaders led by Works Permanent Secretary Professor John Lonyangapuo claimed that property worth million of shilling have been vandalized. The leaders on Sunday stormed the plant to protest against the closure of the plant since last November.

“We are not happy with the wastage of valuable property here. Property worth 300 million shillings has been vandalized. We want the plant to be operational,” demanded the leaders. Only two technical staffs are manning the power transmitting department. The power project produces 106 megawatts to Kenya’s national grid. The power station was constructed at the cost of 48 million U.S. dollars.

The closure of the project has also affected operations of the Kerio Valley Development Authority KVDA, which manages resources at the plant. The leaders wondered why the project has remained shut while there is enough security in the area after the Turkana and Pokot communities resolved to embrace peace. They claimed that the closure has rendered several youths from the two communities jobless forcing some to engage in crime to earn a living.

“Some of the youth employed here as casual workers are engaging in cattle rustling to eke a living since the closure of the project,” lamented Lonyangapuo. The PS accused the Ken-Gen management of relocating its operation to Kitale some 200 km away, adding that the argued the closure of the project has fueled animosity between the two communities since many people relied on the project for a livelihood.

“The project has been the source of income for many people from the two communities and had improved food security in the area. The affected families have resorted to alternative engagement such as rustling to make ends meet,” he said. Learning at Turkwel boarding school is running as normal while the engineers and staff have kept off the station citing insecurity. The leaders appealed to the government to intervene and compel the power generating company to resume operations. (Xinhua)


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