By IFA North Eastern Team
Bernendeta Ngorod, a resident of Manyatta Zebra village in Isiolo, is a worried woman.
Constantly, she fears security officers would come back to harass her family….again. It was not a pleasant experience.
A contingent of heavily armed security officers drawn from the Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) and the General Service Unit (GSU), raided the village at around 6am following an attack on police officers from Mariara GSU camp in Igembe North, Meru county on November 13, 2020 by armed bandits.
Twelve police officers were injured in the attack.
The following day, Turkana community were given three days to surrender all illegal guns in their possession and give the names of the bandits, failure to which police were to launch an operation to flash them out.
“I was still sleeping when the police officers came. They were in armoured cars, ordered us to lie down as they ransacked the house,” says Ngorod.
When the IFA team visited Manyatta Zebra village, we found police in three armoured vehicles patrolling the area. Locals had fled to nearby bushes for safety.
Gloria Ngito, a mother of two, told IFA she and her children were sleeping when police officers came to her house demanding information about the bandits who attacked the GSU camp.
They kicked her in front of her children, threw them out of the house, before leaving for the next homestead.
She was left with injures on her right leg.
Villagers complained of sexual harassment, assault and threats from the police.
On November 26, 2020, police extended their search to Asunyen village where they are reported to have used explosives. Locals scampered to the nearby bushes for safety.
During the operation to ostensibly flash out bandits, houses, utensils and a motorbike were razed by the angry police officers, who also drove away animals.
Animals who were unable to walk were killed, according to residents.
Foodstuffs were burnt leaving the locals with nothing to eat.
They felt hopeless and powerless in their own land.
The feeling among community members was that they were being profiled as bandits unlike their counterparts in Meru or Central Kenya.
They felt their government and leaders had let them down when they needed them most.
Every time bandits from the Turkana community commit a crime, the whole community faces the wrath of the police.
Locals claim police had taken away over 2,500 cattle which is their main source of livelihood.
After locals returned 12 guns, police released 914 cattle.
When the IFA team visited Lowangilla police station on November 27 to check if locals had reported the atrocities meted on them, only 13 victims had reported that police had taken their cattle away.
Isiolo county commissioner Herman Shambi confirmed locals’ allegations that police were selling and slaughtering their animals at Ndumuru police station where they were being held.
He said the police service does not luck “few criminals” during a meeting with IFA and KNCHR at his office in Isiolo.
However, when the IFA team visited Ndumuru police station, they were turned away by the officer in charge, a Apolo Busolo, who said the station was an operation centre and no civilian was allowed in.
Other villages affected include Chumvi, Chumvi yere, Daaba and Araimayoi.
In June 2018, security personnel led a similar operation to recover cattle alleged to have been stolen by Turkana bandits from Samburu.
Eight Turkana lives were lost with many other people injured.
Police used live bullets on locals and took over 300 cattle away.
Many were displaced and their houses were torched.