By KIBIWOTT CHERONO
It’s almost the end of the first term of schools, but learning has not resumed at Ngelecha Primary school, a familiar situation in several Primary schools in Baringo North and South Constituencies, Baringo County.
The invaders have left nothing in their wake, teacher’s chalks; text books soil in animal waste, several books may not be useful again. New inhabitants have taken over the deserted learning institutions for wrong purposes.
Residents blamed it on insecurity saying several children dropped out of school and got married while others engaged in prostitution in urban towns as hope of going back to school diminish.
During his tour to the cattle rustling prone Baringo South, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Nkaiseri, noted that at least 6,000 children have been forced out of school and a number of them could not sit for the National exams in standard eight and form four.
At once vibrant Ngelecha Primary, several text and exercise books and desks scatter all over the school compound after learning was paralyzed in 2012 and villages deserted as raiders make the area unsuitable to live. Classrooms have been vandalized and converted into calves’ bomas.
Other schools which have been closed include Kapindasum, Kasiela, Nasukuro, Chemorongion,Chebinyiny, Arabal, Ramacha, Katilomwo Primary schools and Tuyotich secondary school also closed recently.
Rugus Primary school has been completely run over by the armed criminals while Kapindasum and Ngelecha primary schools had school property either soiled in cow dug or consumed by hardworking termites. Other schools not yet closed are operating partially.
Sustained armed attacks in the area perpetuated by Pokot bandits forced more than 20, 000 people flee Arabal, Rugus and Chebinyiny Sub-locations with their children. Area leaders led by Baringo County MP Grace Kiptui accused the Government of failing to act giving humble environment to the problem to spread.
The raids have always been linked to competition for pasture between communities living in the area but the scale of attacks has disapproved this since the bandits have taken over all available grazing fields and water points but still strike.
The officers who were recalled from leave and other assignments to take part in the operation have pitched camps at Kapindasum Primary School, Kapindasum Dispensary and Katilomwo village, the strongholds of the herders.
Other areas Pokot herders have pitched tent include, Ramacha, Raramoru,Losokoni, Ngelecha, Bartuluk, Karau hills, Sogonin and Chesirimion villages, all in Arabal location.
According to Arabal location chief William Koech, more than 8,000 people were forcefully evicted by the Pokot herders since 2005 after torching homes, killed the owners and made away with thousands of livestock.
Ironically, Pokot herders a day after the then Acting Inspector General of Police Samuel Arachi toured Baringo and announced the intended security operation, his house at Katilomwo village was vandalized and roofing materials, household items including chairs, beds and utensils taken away.
“The residents are fully behind the Government in this exercise, people have suffered enough, however we are asking the Government to ignore people not interested with the eviction’, said Koech who also lost 415 goats to the Pokots in 2013.
A spot check by The Standard established that the herders earmarked for eviction hide their animals in the valleys, away from security helicopters only to retreat back at night to graze and water at Kuki Gallmann ranch in Laikipia. Security officers, who could not be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media, lament that several roads leading to their hide outs could not be accessed by foot and need aerial surveillance hence complicating the impending operation.
At Kapindasum Primary school, broken pieces of chalks, text books, and exercise books now under the mercy of hardworking termites, remains the only testimony that human beings once existed.
Armed Pokot herders descended at the school at the beginning of this year, chasing away pupils and teachers before turning on Solar Panels, staff room, dormitory and other school facilities running over completely.
The administrator reveals that more than 2,000 children from more than 10 primary schools and a secondary school in Baringo South are out of school, due to persistent cattle raids.
The schools remain closed and villages deserted as raiders make the area inhabitable. So bad is the situation that classrooms have been vandalized and some converted into temporary homes for the raiders.
As to display the depth of destruction, vital school records, school registers and audit books are spread on the floors partially eaten by termites and covered in dust. Here, classrooms have been converted into police houses and kitchens as they prepare to confront the bandits.
Interestingly, on top of a white carton containing several new exercise books is an old New Living Translation bible, left open by the owner with the following message.
‘When the people heard the thunder and the loud blast, and when they saw the flashes of lightning and the smoke billowing from the mountain, they stood at a distance, trembling with fear’.
A piece of paper hanging on the termite invaded walls indicate that the school in 2013 had, 23, 376 textbooks, 35,064 exercise books and 7, 818 Pencils which are no more again.
Across Kapindasum river is a ghost Centre which at one point hosted several shops, hotels and Posho mills but now a deserted area with termites racing against time to complete their assessments ahead of the security operation and possible return of the absent owners.
Inside one of the abandoned and vandalized shop with only broken shelves, is a business permit issued to Edwin Kiprop by County Council of Baringo in March 9, 2010 after paying a fee of Sh200.
A resident, Paul Yatich said although the Government had kicked off the operation, many of them pushed more than 45 kilometers away from their border with Pokots at Mukutani were not willing to move back until their security is assured.
“This is public relations exercise played by the Government, our people were killed while the state security watched and told the world that things were under control which was not the case. In the past, security officers deployed in the area colluded with the attackers and we are sure about that’, said Yatich.
But while echoing his sentiments, Joseph Chebon, another resident blamed the Government for accepting to be fed with lies by Pokot leaders for so long, saying several girls dropped out of school and got married because of high poverty levels encountered by most parents following the sustained raids.
Mr Chebon asked the Government to commence investigations against a section of Pokot leaders from West Pokot County and Tiaty, alleging that they were behind the chaos and endless raids since 2005.
The displaced locals do not have shelter as well. And despite the deployment of additional police to crack down on raiders and other criminals, the families are yet to go back to their homes. However, Rift Valley Regional commissioner Osman Warfa remains optimistic that National Youth Service (NSY) will be deployed to assist the locals rebuild their lives again.
Areas often targeted by the raiders include Lomelo, Kapedo, Amuke, areas of lower Baringo North and Napeiton in Turkana East.
Pastoral communities in the North Rift have, for many years, been involved in armed conflict over cattle, pasture and water.