The misery, suffering and pain in Baringo is set to escalate after the leading humanitarian body – Kenya Red Cross Society temporarily withdrew its services following a wave of banditry attacks by armed assailants.
In a statement, Kenya Red Cross – which has been delivering food and medical supplies aids to the volatile Baringo, said that it was suspending all its operations effective February, Saturday 25.
“The Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) has suspended all operations in Baringo County and withdrawn all its staff and volunteers from the county effective, Saturday, 25 February 2017,” said the Red Cross.
Red Cross said that the decision was arrived at following confrontations by the residents where relief food was looted.
“This follows confrontation with the residents that led to looting of relief food and harassment of KRCS staff and volunteers, yesterday (Friday, February 25) at Kambi Samaki.”
Red Cross added: “The unfortunate incident took place 12 kilometres from Marigat town and towards Chemolingot, where a convoy of seven KRCS vehicles carrying 96.8 metric tonnes of relief food comprising of maize flour, pulses, cooking oil and salt meant for Kapedo and Lomelo areas in Turkana County, was blocked by the residents and forced to turn back to Marigat.”
The Red Cross said that it was suspending operations since it can no longer guarantee the safety of its staff, volunteers and resources.
“Our staff and volunteers were threatened by residents despite our assurance that the consignment was headed to Turkana County, and had nothing to do with the current inter-clan conflict in Baringo County,” said Dr Abbas Gullet, Secretary General, KRCS.
“At the first roadblock, KRCS staff attempted to negotiate with the residents, majority of whom were young people, but they were adamant. After one hour of negotiations, the convoy had to turn around after residents pounced on one vehicle and threatened to burn it down, only to meet another roadblock 4 kilometres from the first one.”
Dr Gullet added: “The second crowd directed the convoy to use a nearby detour back to Marigat, through a nearby small centre, where crowds from the first and second roadblocks, as well as those at the centre trapped KRCS staff.”
“The confrontation escalated, as the residents who are from the Tugen community accused KRCS of giving food support to the Pokot community.”
KRCS says that its staff were forced to present the waybill that clearly indicated the food was destined for Turkana County, triggering some order.
A police vehicle then arrived from Marigat and in no time the youth approached one truck that had 8.5 tonnes of maize flour looting it clean, claiming they had fresh orders.
“Never in the history of Kenya Red Cross Society, have we ever been held hostage. We have always had access to all areas due to our neutrality and impartiality, during all crisis and emergencies,” added Dr Gullet.
Baringo is one of the counties affected by drought and conflict, where KRCS has been supporting residents with monthly cash transfers, non-food items, rehabilitation of waters sources and medical outreaches in Baringo North, Baringo South and Tiaty sub counties.
KRCS has also been evacuating those wounded in conflict, and supporting displaced mothers and children.
“Kenya Red Cross Society may only resume operations when the Baringo County government guarantees the safety of our staff, volunteers and resources. I also request the national government to intervene and shield the vulnerable residents from the suffering we continue to witness,” added Dr Gullet.