More than 200 families who have fled their homes in Kitui South Constituency fearing renewed bandit attacks are at risk of starvation and contracting water borne diseases.
The families, which are camping at Mutha Catholic Church, are also sleeping in the cold after they were forcibly driven out of their homes by armed Somali camel herders who have unleashed terror in the area.
In an ugly recurrence of the long standing pastoral conflicts pitting peasant farmers in the region and invading Somali herders in search of pasture and water, the latest bandit attacks have left three people dead and scores of others with gunshot injuries in the last one week.
According to statistics released by the Kenya Red Cross Society, the numbers are swelling by the day as more people flee their homes.
By Tuesday, a total of 1,327 people, including school children, were camping at Mutha Catholic Church, Musenge and Kyeni primary schools.
County Kenya Red Cross Coordinator Husna Lukowe said the fresh bandit attacks have disrupted learning in at least seven schools after parents withdrew their children and fled their homes.
“Residents fearing for their lives are preferring to either spend nights next to police posts or keep vigil in the thickets and this has created a humanitarian crisis in the makeshift camps they are staying,” the official said.
While appealing for aid, Ms Lukowe said the affected families are in dire need of food, water and medical supplies as only a few well-wishers have come forward to salvage the situation.
“Kenya Red Cross was only able to supply 75 blankets which were shared among mothers with children under the age of five years and below, with the rest sleeping in the cold,” Ms Lukowe explained.
The affected schools, whose teachers also fled the area, include Kalambani Day Secondary, Kyeni, Musenge, Ikandani, Kalambani and Ingoo PCEA primary schools.
The residents expressed concerns that security personnel deployed to the area are only doing road patrols and returning to their stations at night, which is not sufficient to drive away the armed attackers who are hiding in the bush.
They accused the government of turning a blind eye to the problem by failing to flush out more than 5,000 people illegally living in South Kitui Game Reserve where some are feared to be illegal foreigners and terror agents responsible for persistent bandit attacks.
The Kitui County government Tuesday deployed several water trucks to the camps of the internally displaced people to avert possible outbreak of diseases.
Chief Officer for Water Kioko Kiilu said the water trucking in the arid area will continue until security is restored for all families to return to their homes.
Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai on Tuesday accused unnamed powerful individual of protecting the bandits terrorising people in her constituency.
Dr Nyamai claimed the unending pastoral conflicts pitting residents of Kitui and herders from counties in northern Kenya is being instigated by certain high ranking government officials for selfish gains.
“This is no longer a Kitui County pastoral conflict but it is a major security problem affecting the entire country because the people hiding in the Enyali thicket are Al-Shabaab terrorists and they are connected to influential people in government,” said Dr Nyamai.
The MP, who chairs the parliamentary Lands committee, was addressing hundreds of families who had fled their homes in Enyali and Ikandani areas and taken refuge at Mutha Police Station following an attack on Sunday that left one person dead and scores injured.
Dr Nyamai did not name any leader or government official, but said all Kitui MPs will Thursday be meeting Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to expose livestock barons allegedly shielding the bandits.
She said the unpatrolled parks and unchecked invasion by camel herders could provide fertile breeding grounds for terrorists as no one is aware what goes on there.
“Who accounts for the activities of these people hiding in this game reserve?” Dr Nyamai posed, adding that bombs and grenades could be assembled there quietly and transported to cause terror in other parts of the country.
The Jubilee legislator said that during a recent tour of the villages bordering the game reserve, the alleged bandits posing as camel herders openly threatened and dared her not to step there again, yet it is part of her constituency.
Given the little attention game reserves get, Dr Nyamai lamented that the National Security Council does not appreciate the magnitude of the porous situation and their direct link to the country’s terror threats.
“Persistent attacks on civilians by armed bandits imply that there is proliferation of small arms in the region which the government needs to urgently mop up as the same illicit weapons are used in committing other crimes including terrorism” she said.
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