POKOT-MARAKWET CONFLICT: Chaos in the valley
People of Chesegon village, Lepei sub location along Pokot- Marakwet border are in mourning following the latest attack by Marakwet assailants. On January 5, 2018 at around 11.30 am, over 150 Marakwets (Chepleng raiders) attacked Pokot herdsmen at Kiriamet heading away with 306 cattle after killing three Pokot herdsmen and wounding one.
The assailants who suffered only one loss were well organized and orchestrated a well-planned attack. A local herdsman described how the attackers overpowered four Kenya Police Reserve (KPR) soldiers and the herdsmen.
“The raiders came across the border from the Marakwet side near Sindar area and directly attacked the Pokots. While the Pokots were defending themselves, another group of raiders came from behind the herdsmen on the Pokot side catching them unaware.
A group of the Marakwet raiders had walked overnight along the power grid line which traverses communally owned land from Turkwel to Tot. The raiders later emerged at Kaghpoghegh dam on the Pokot side and went on to attack the herdsmen from behind at Kiriamet.
The two fronted attack left the Pokots vulnerable as some thought that the second attacking group was reinforcement from Pokot hence they raised their arms only to be ambushed.”
The attack comes in the wake of peace talks between the two communities of Marakwet and Pokot which have had little impact in easing tension along the border. Despite willingness of both communities to hold peace talks, the area remains risky due to political interests arising mostly from Marakwet community leaders.
The late Bishop Cornelius Korir held a peace meeting with village elders of the two communities at Eldoret early last year in a bid to resolve the border issues. Whereas the mainstream media has painted the Pokots as the principal antagonists, the story on the ground is different. With national political backing, the border issues have intensified with the Marakwets being the first offenders. Besides taking Pokot cattle that stray over the border, they shoot at Pokot animals from Sindar hill which is close to the border.
The progress of the peace talks were halted when political interference instigated by the current Vice President William Ruto intensified the conflict after he armed 200 KPR on the Marakwet side and compensated the families whereas neglecting the Pokot side. During the political meeting at Liter, the Vice President gave a shoot to kill order against the Pokots. Being a national leader, this segmentation was uncalled for.
The political drift was clearly evident during the 2017 general elections where Jubilee ticket aspirant Simon Kachapin was ousted by John Lonyangapou in the West Pokot gubernatorial race. The opposition party also managed to gun the most votes in West Pokot compared to other elections following the fall out of Pokots with the Vice President. The only relief to Jubilee was Pokots loyalty to the Kenyatta regime.
Due to the conflicts, there is minimal economic activity along the border hence increase in poverty levels in the region. Chesegon market had been closed for the better part of last year and locals were unable to plant crops due to fear of raiders.
The West Pokot seating Governor John Lonyangapou with other Pokot leaders tried to resolve the issue through peace talks after elections but their Marakwet counter parts where nowhere to be seen. The Marakwets failed to attend three consecutive peace meetings claiming that their leaders were not ready. Not ready for peace?
This latest Marakwet attack came after their refusal to attend peace meetings called for by the Pokots. The government has remained mute on the matter and unless the Pokots are compensated for their loss, this attack will not go unanswered since it is clearly evident that Marakwets are not for peace.
The government is seating on a mine field that may explode into an outright war and they seem not to be bothered. The Marakwets are growing arrogant due to political backing but they should not forget that Pokots never back down from a war.
The Vice President is also playing a dangerous game knowing that his 2022 presidential ambition is pegged in his ability to consolidate the Rift vote. He is already in bad books with the Pokots due to the border issues, both in West and East Pokot. The Turkanas are not contended with the oil deal. Combining with Gedion Moi influence in Baringo, over 600,000 votes are at risk in the Rift.
This border issue may intensify to a national issue and the Vice President would have himself to blame in case he fails to deal with this problem sooner rather than later.