Army, GSU launch air and land
operation in Mt Elgon
March 11, 2008
By Standard Team
A combined operation of the Army and paramilitary police swooped
on villages in Mt Elgon District at dawn as scared residents of
all ages scampered for dear life.
In what is being billed as the biggest operation in the country
since the Shifta wars of the 1960s, the no-nonsense officers
attacked from the air and on the ground.
A resident, Mr Kiberenge arap Ndiwa, who fled from Chepsiro in the
district said: "Ndege iko inamwaga moto kila mahali huko milimani
(Helicopters are spitting fire everywhere in the hills)."
Whole villages and shopping centres had been turned into ghost
At the same time, the Government imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in
the troubled Kitale and Mt Elgon regions.
Rift Valley PC, Mr Hassan Noor Hassan, speaking through the
Provincial Information Officer, Mrs Mary Miano, said the
7pm-to-7am curfew would extend to Trans Nzoia West, Trans Nzoia
East and Kwanza districts.
Army officers on guard at the
banks of Lwakhakha River in Cheptais, Mt Elgon District, on
Monday. The military launched an air and land offensive to
hunt down Sabaot Land Defence Force fighters. Picture by Isac
The military operation was
launched from the southern end of Mt Elgon District, an area
the Government says is the stronghold of the Sabaot Land
Defence Force (SLDF), which has been accused of atrocities.
Most of the killings linked to the group have taken place in
Kopsiro and Cheptais divisions, and in the upper parts of
Saboti in neighbouring Trans Nzoia District.
The fighting, which has been going on for nearly two years,
started when residents differed over the allocation of land
in Chebyuk Settlement Scheme, with residents claiming they
had been overlooked.
The Ndorobo claimed that the rival
Soi clan had been given land hived off the forest, which was their
home until they were evicted and moved to a reserve by the
Western PC, Mr Abdul Mwasserah, was upbeat that the operation
would deal a deathblow to the militia group.
"We are going to wipe them out and ensure that peace returns to Mt
Elgon after over two years of mayhem," said the administrator.
Asked about the involvement of the military and the heavy hardware
deployed, the PC said it was necessary because past operations had
But local leaders criticised the operation.
A furious Mt Elgon MP, Mr Fred Kapondi, protested at the manner in
which the campaign was being conducted.
He demanded that attacks on the civilian population stop and an
explanation why military helicopters were being used to "bomb the
banks of Cheptais and Lwakhakha rivers".
"They are targeting populated areas instead of rounding up the
militia who operate from the forest," said Kapondi.
And former Assistant minister, Mr Samuel Moroto, accused the
Government of frustrating the Sabaot community in the name of
hunting for criminals.
"The Government action is not the way to solve an insecurity
problem. Instead, it is subjecting innocent people to unnecessary
suffering," lamented Moroto.
The two leaders said they feared security officers would abuse
human rights, and demanded that the operation be halted.
The security forces have deployed cannon gunners, helicopter
gunships and other military hardware ferried to the region in
Kenya Army trucks.
They assembled at the Eldoret Airstrip on Sunday evening for a
briefing before embarking on the exercise, whose duration is
The Chairman of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, Bishop
Eliud Wabukala, asked security personnel to be professional during
"We will demand that they do not harass innocent children and
women," he said.