By Col (Rtd) Hon. Dido Ali Rasso Member of Parliament for Saku Constituency
Ladies and Gentlemen; this is another sad day when we want to bring to your attention the never- ending insecurity Marsabit County; we continue to feature in the news always for the wrong reasons; Insecurity and killings. It is a matter of grave concern that the state of security in Marsabit County, is going from bad to worse. We have repeatedly sought for protection from the Government and the security agencies, but our pleas have always fallen on deaf ears.
For several months now, planned killings of livestock herders, calculated raids on rural settlements, brutal murders of innocent women and poor quarry workers and indiscriminate massacres of Boda Boda riders and commuters including school-going children, have continued unabated especially in Saku constituency. From mid May this year to yesterday, the 22nd June 2020, we have witnessed series of attacks and killings on various settlements and water points in Saku 2 to 3 times a week.
On June 9 2020, we buried four teenagers in Songa location. The four youngsters – Chuchu Monsor (Boda Boda rider), Jesica Leado (Tangaza College Nairobi), George Obelei (Kenyatta University) and Daniel Lentare (Form 2 student at Saku High School) were brutally murdered along Badassa-Songa road while sharing a ride home. Four days later, on the 13th June, we buried 4 herders who were ambushed and killed while fetching water from a dam which is barely 15Km from the town.
Just yesterday, the 22nd June 2020, we were treated to yet another devastating news of cruel murders of two 16-year old Form 2 students. The two – Musa Kamau, a student at St Paul’s Secondary school in Marsabit and Godana Halake of Sacred heart Secondary School in Isiolo – were sharing a Boda Boda ride from their homes in Dirib Centre, when they were killed by gunmen armed with automatic rifles at Bank Quarters, less than 2Kms from Marsabit town centre. Their friend, Baraqo Qararsa, a 12-year old class 6 pupil at Hekima Pry School was also injured.
Over the last two weeks, we have lost 14 innocent young persons all of whom were killed by gunmen oftentimes uniformed, armed with automatic rifles and who appear to operate like an organized militia group. From April, 2017 to date, 50 people in Saku, including 2 police officers, have been killed by organized militias from the neighbouring constituencies. It is totally unimaginable that we can just lose innocent lives every single day, and yet no one is being held responsible. What is most astonishing is that the police recovered all the three guns stolen from Jaldesa police post on the 6th November 2019 when the two officers were killed. Yet the persons from whom those guns were recovered were never arrested and charged for the attack on Jaldesa settlement and the killings of the police officers.
We want to pronounce ourselves from the onset that no one has the right to take another man’s life. In a civilized society, no killing can be considered normal or justified; not even for the pursuit of a revenge. Every life is sacred and the lives of Marsabit People too must be protected for that sanctity. We therefore want to condemn in no uncertain terms all killings in any part of Marsabit. It is such an indescribable shame on us all – the ethnic group in conflict, leaders and elders from all sides.
Above all, the security team have failed to protect the precious lives of the innocent Kenyans in Marsabit. Whereas there are many causal factors sustaining the conflicts, we believe that the security team has terribly failed to maintain law and order, protect lives and properties and contain criminal elements causing havoc. We fully understand that law cannot make warring communities love each other. But timely actions by law enforcement team can prevent people from killing each other.
It is worrying that the security team are becoming by-standers when armed militias are killing people in the broad daylight in grazing fields, water points and in close proximity to villages and full glare of the security forces. It is crystal clear that, despite knowing all the hotspots and conflict-prone areas, the security team in Marsabit have terribly failed to forestall and prevent violence from happening, and when it happens they have never focused on bringing the perpetrators to book. We want to appeal to the national security team in Marsabit to take their rightful place in the maintenance of law and order.
We are also losing lives in Marsabit because of the failure the National Government Administrators on the ground to enforce the already defined administrative boundaries. The land question is at the heart of this conflict and confusion. It is important to point out that Saku Constituency is the smallest of the four Constituencies of Marsabit County. Yet Saku is the epicenter of the on-going clashes.
All the victims of the recent killings, with the exception of the four Rendille youths killed around Badassa- Songa, were members of the Borana community. The police and national government administrators are fully aware that the killers are hired mercenaries from outside the Constituency. They also know that the massacres in Saku are not borne of conflicts over resource sharing. It is a known fact that pastoralists have always accessed and shared natural resources through a negotiated approach. But the armed conflicts we are witnessing is an effort aimed at permanent displacement of the Borana community from their ancestral land. The intent is to sustain boundary contestations, shrink the land mass of Saku and drive the Borana pastoralists from their land. The National Government administrators should not feign ignorance. They must act decisively to stop these conflicts. We have no doubt that the capacity to resolve the boundary issue exists.
We have stressed times without end, that the clashes and conflicts in Marsabit are also scheme by some political forces who are determined to destabilize the County and derail development agenda of the elected leaders. Even though we cannot take away the responsibility from the attackers who participated in the actual raids and killings, it is also becoming clear, it appears that there are conflict entrepreneurs and activists in towns who plan endlessly for inter-ethnic conflicts and violent attacks. We have witnessed conflict trends where communities that have co-existed together peacefully for years and who have had history of voting together are being turned against each other with the view to causing political disunity. Ethnic conflicts and killings cannot be planned or sanctioned by a whole community. It is oftentimes the groups of individuals – working by themselves, advancing interests that are far detached from the well being of the community – who plan and cause bloodshed in the name of their community. No community should be branded as criminal. We appeal to the Security Team to always try and apprehend the real war planners and perpetrators, and to desist from the tendency of equal distribution of blames on all elected leaders and/or elders of the warring communities. Such actions have been counterproductive in the past and will not be productive now or in the future.
Finally, as we all work towards the cessation of hostilities, we have known that Marsabit National Park has become a safe haven for criminals. The killings of 4 teenagers on 8th June, yesterday’s killings of 2 boys and many others were conducted from that Park. We will not pretend that conservation of forests and wildlife is more important than preservation of human life. We will demand that the government either makes the park safe for us or degazettes it completely to make the land available for development, human settlement and other productive biodiversity conservation programmes.