Passengers taken hostage at Kainak, Turkana
More than 700 people including a dozen refugees from Kakuma refugee camp were among those held hostage.
Hundreds of commuters were stranded at Kainuk on Saturday, 13 December. Angry protesters blocked the road for more than 38 hours following an attack by bandits that killed four people.
Kainuk is a small town in the middle of the desert between Lodwar and Kitale. It is about 130 kilometers from Kitale and 168 km from Lodwar, and is situated on the only highway that passes through Turkana Country connecting East African countries with neighboring South Sudan.
Turkana and Pokot who lived in the adjacent counties have for many years clashed over cattle rustling, with bandits from each tribe attacking rival communities. The bandits have made away with thousands of livestock mainly sheep and goats. The security situation in the area is intolerable and the residents have out cried to the government for many years. In November, 21 police officers were massacred by Pokot bandits in Kapedo near the Baringo-Turkana county border.
On 12 December, Pokot raiders carried out the alleged attack on a Kainuk village. This was on Jamhuri day or the independence day celebration in the country. According to the county police boss, the Pokot militia stormed into the village and shot at residents, killing four on the spot and injuring five others. A Kenya police reservist officer was among those wounded in the attack.
Turkana Country Commissioner Julius Mathenge estimated that about 200 vehicles and hundreds of travelers were affected when the road got blocked. According to the Kenya Red Cross Society, more than 700 passengers were stranded near Kainuk. The Red Cross officials distributed water, bread and milk to stranded passengers.
Abdiweli Osman, a Somali refugee who was among the hostages, stated the invasion by the bandit was ill motive! Osman stated that a group of about 45 men fully armed with guns and spears approached the buses to stop and then proceeded to blockade the road. “I was heading from Kitale to Kakuma after purchasing goods and service for my retail shop in Kakuma camp,” he said.
“Earlier on, it was with luck that a group of six administration police officers came to rescue the people but they were outnumbered,” Osman added.
The security was deployed from Kainuk police station, the only nearby security base, in collaboration with the General Service Unit squad in the locality.
KANERE would like to put across to refugee travelers to obtain travel permits and remain extra vigilant during the worst season of the year, as is evident with the scores of banditry attacks within the Lower Rift Valley province.