News 2008


Choppers pursue Mt Elgon militia

March 5, 2008


By Robert Wanyonyi

The Government has launched the long-awaited ground-to-air operation against the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militiamen in Mt Elgon and Trans-Nzoia West districts.

It was a rare spectacle as two military choppers circled Mt Elgon forests in pursuit of the militiamen.

The fighting sparked off by the militia over the controversial Chebyuk settlement scheme, has, according to the Western Kenya Human Rights Watch, claimed 534 lives and displaced more than 40,000 people in the last one and a half years.

Yesterday, residents who have been living in fear, cheered as the choppers flew above Embakasi and Kisawai, the scene of a bloody attack that left 12 people, among them a two-month-old infant, dead.

The Rift Valley PPO, Mr Japheth Ashimallah, Trans-Nzoia West DC, Mr Francis Mutie, and senior provincial and district security officers were on the ground to co-ordinate the exercise.

The Rapid Deployment Unit, a special unit that had been dispatched to contain the SLDF militia, is given back up in the operation by regular and Administration Police.

"We will definitely record some progress in making sure that criminals do not continue visiting havoc on law-abiding citizens.

The security team is on the ground to ensure residents settle back on their farms," Ashimallah assured Saboti MP, Mr Eugene Wamalwa, who was at the scene.

The PPO said he was co-ordinating the operation against the militiamen in liaison with his Western Province counterpart, Mr Francis Munyambu, to ensure that all porous points used by the militia to escape previous operations were sealed.

Though Ashimallah did not specify the progress made, confidential sources told The Standard two SLDF militias had been shot dead and several arrested only hours after the start of the operation.

Mutie announced that the Government had crucial information and names of some politicians believed to be funding the activities of the SLDF.

"We will not allow politicians to continue enjoying peace while at the same time cause innocent residents to suffer. Soon they will be arrested and arraigned in court," warned Mutie.

He claimed that some school children were being lured into joining the militia group, which he said use traditional charms and magic to bind their members to their criminal activities.

He said some militiamen were involved in extorting money from residents in the name of protection fee and were the ones who turned around to kill and burn down houses of those who refused to yield to their demands.

Wamalwa said the Government ought to do enough to convince displaced people that security had been beefed up.

"While I welcome the commencement of the security operation, I still feel the Government has a lot of ground to cover before normal life resumes. The criminals have to be dealt with first," said Wamalwa.

However, leaders from the local Anglican Church of Kenya opposed the police operation, saying innocent people might suffer.

Led by Mr Leonard Ndiema, the leaders claimed the security officers were torching houses and beating up women and children in the name of hunting down the SLDF.

Ndiema claimed the militia group that attacked Embakasi might have been part of the youths that were being given military training at the farm of former Saboti MP, Mr Davies Nakitare, who is now in the US.

"We are not against efforts to restore law and order in this region. But we donít want to see the police apply the law selectively. Let all those arrested in connection with the training at the former MPís farm be charged," said Ndiema.

They further warned politicians against taking the matter lightly by calling for the release of the 205 youths who were arrested at Nakitareís farm.

Ford-Kenya Chairman, Mr Musikari Kombo, and former Kanduyi MP, Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi, last weekend called for the release of the suspects, saying they were to be used as game rangers at Nakitareís expansive Delta Crescent farm, known worldwide as a tourism attraction site.