THE BARAGOI-SUGUTA MASSACRE: LATEST NEWS UPDATE
Wednesday, 14 November, 2:15pm
KIBAKI RELEASES STATEMENT
Public anger at the lack of response displayed by Kenya’s political leaders to the massacre of more than 40 police officers and security force personnel in the Suguta valley at the weekend was only partly appeased by a statement from president Kibaki condemning the attack but many questions remain to be answered in the wake of the most violent attack on the country’s security forces in Kenya’s history.
“MOST OF US, INCLUDING OUR COMMANDERS WERE SHOT”
One soldier interviewed as he lay in hospital recounted his story of the ambush. “We arrived there at around 10am”, he said. We were attacked almost immediately when we arrived. They were not so many, but the way they had organised themselves it was like they had received information earlier. Most of us (my colleagues) including our commanders were shot, some of them survived, then we tried to escape. The attackers gathered the guns that were lying down including the big ones and went with them.”
FINAL DEATH TOLL STILL UNKNOWN
At present there is still confusion as to how many policemen and security personnel died in the massacre. A statement released from the National Security Council yesterday stated that 32 police officers and Kenya Police Reservists had been killed in the ambush but other estimates put the total 31 dead since when two more bodies have been recovered.
NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SEND IN KDF
Following a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday chaired by President Kibaki and attended by both Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoko, the council ordered Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) to be deployed to the Samburu County area to support the Kenya Police Service in tracking down the bandits and recovering the stolen animals and arms.
ODINGA – “DECISIVE ACTION”
Prime Minister Raila Odinga also made a statement addressing the Baragoi massacre after presiding over the Ford Foundation’s ‘champions of democracy’ awards ceremony. “Decisive action will be taken to ensure we don’t see a repeat of such incidents”, said Odinga, although he did not say what such action would entail.
The PM in any case will not be personally handling the response to the massacre as he is believed to be out of the country for next week.
REPORT SENT TO MINISTER OF INTERNAL SECURITY
Meanwhile, the former director of the Committee of Experts, Ekuru Aukot has sent a seven-page letter to Internal Security Minister Katoo ole Metito, copied to President Kibaki, PM Odinga and Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere, setting out what happened in the run up to the massacre.
GOVERNMENT AGENTS TOOKS SIDES?
Ekuru Aukot’S report apparently states that in his opinion the conflict between the Turkana and Samburu was ‘political’ with government agents taking sides in the dispute between the two communities.
Controversially, Aukot also alleges that some of the people who died in the weekend massacre were not policemen but rather Samburu morans who had been issued with police uniforms.
“SAMBURU HOME GUARDS” ALLEGATION
This allegation ties in with a statement reported in today’s Daily Nation (‘Blunder cost officers their lives’) in which an unnamed ‘Turkana’ leader stated of the police action in the Sugutu valley on Saturday, “They came with Samburu home guards, which we could not accept”.
He also claimed that in July security forces supported by Samburu home guards raided a Turkana settlement at Sarima village, an action that resulted in the deaths of 13 people.
PC ITEERE CONFLICTING STATEMENTS
Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere appears to have made conflicting statements whist being embroiled in a controversy over the availability and use of helicopters.
Iteere is quoted in the Daily Nationdismissing accusations that the police were not adequately armed. “This was an ambush and even the best trained and armed officers anywhere in the world would find it difficult when ambushed”, he said.
However, The Standard quoted Mathew Iteere as saying, “We would do better had we had better equipment. We have to work with what we have now”.
ITEERE AND THE HELICOPTERS
PC Iteere visited the scene of the massacre yesterday, descending in a helicopter with a ‘support aircraft’, another helicopter, in close attendance. It transpires however, that aid to the stricken policemen was not supplied by helicopter, nor was one available to pick up their bodies because the local police helicopter was grounded at the weekend due to a technical fault.
So Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere has two helicopters to assist him and the massacred police officers had none.
ITEERE WILL NOT RESIGN
Asked by a reporter whether he was going to resign following the massacre, Mathew Iteere said he would not and declared that as Police Commissioner his job was to issues policies and guidance. Perhaps now he will adopt a policy and issue the necessary guidance to allow at least one of his helicopters to help the police in Samburu County, says the Kenya Forum!
“You need to understand the role of the Commissioner of Police”, Iteere was quoted as saying, “The blame goes to the commander on the ground”. So the buck doesn’t stop with Iteere then.
SHOTS FROM 3KM A MYTH SAYS KENYA FORUM
Finally, several reports have referred to the cattle rustlers firing on the police from a range of 3km. The Kenya Forum can state categorically that this is nonsense.
There are few rifles in the world capable of such a feat on even a single occasion let alone hit over 40 individuals (most shot in the head, according to reports) from such a range. A quick look at the topography of the area suggests rather that the bandits were firing from a ridge perhaps 200 meters from the police position.
Related media reports:
The Standard – ‘Kenyans enraged by slow reaction of State to brutal killings’
Daily Nation – ‘Kibaki sends army after Baragoi killers’
The Star – ‘Kibaki orders military to go after Baragoi police killers’
BARAGOI MASSACRE WORST IN KENYA’S HISTORY
The death at the hands of armed castle rustlers of at least 42 police officers near Baragoi, Samburu County, in the Rift Valley, is the worst such incident in Kenya’s post-independence history.
The security forces seemed slow to react as those young men were cut down in a hail of bullets in the Suguta valley and afterwards the politicians and the press were equally lethargic as the news of the massacre spread.
Still confusions reigns, as it seems also to have done when the massacre took place, leaving many questions to be answered.
How many police officers, GSU personnel and reservists have been killed?
The Standard now reports at least 42 dead (and they appear to have reporters on the ground). The Nation newspaper says 37. The Star quotes 32 killed, a figure repeated by international news agencies.
One report says that 107 policemen and other security forces were sent towards the Suguta valley to recover stolen cattle from a band of cattle rustlers when they were ambushed by armed bandits. Yet other reports say 150 or more security personnel were involved.
WHEN DID THE MASSACRE TAKE PLACE?
Most press reports refer to the attack taking place on Saturday but others suggest that the bandits returned to the attack on Sunday.
These confused reports and other considerations lead to many, as yet, unanswered questions.
MANY QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED
If the attack on the policemen occurred on Saturday and Sunday, are to take it these mainly young policemen were unable to radio for assistance, or that they were able to call for help but no such help was forthcoming?
Some reports suggested that snipers fired on the policemen from a range of up to two miles. If that is true it would have required the use of sophisticated weaponry and training in how to use such rifles. Where would ‘cattle rustlers’ get such guns and such training?
INEXPERIENCED AND ILL-EQUIPPED?
Were the police officers sent to the Sagutu valley inexperienced young men from Nakuru, many of whom had served less than two years, as several press reports suggest, or experienced officers and the Rapid Response Unit as others maintain?
If the former, why were they sent in? If the latter, why were they caught so unprepared?
Why was, asks the Kenya Forum, that many of the bodies of the policemen killed in the massacre, left out in the bush for two days?
Is it true, as police spokesman Eric Kiraithe has claimed, that the police force was ill-equipped “without bulletproof jackets and armoured vehicles”? Or is the case, as Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere has asserted that they were well equipped?
SILENCE FROM OUR LEADERS
Why was it that when news of tragedy began to spread, our politicians and leaders seemed to ignore it?
The Kenya Forum is not aware of any statement of concern and condolences being issued by our political leaders. If they did so, none were reported.
The Parliamentary Committee on Administration and National Security was quick to blame the government. But who is really to blame?
REPORTING THE MASSACRE
And what about Kenya’s media?
The Kenya Forum relayed reports of the attack on Sunday morning when the information was that at least seven policemen had been killed. At that time there was little on the Internet reporting the news of the Baragoi massacre.
By Monday morning the Daily Nation did run the story as its main front page news item but The Star had reverted for its front page to coverage of the latest opinion poll, as did The Standard.
Was the worst massacre of Kenyan policemen in nearly 50 years of no interest?
We need to know what happened in the heat of the Sugutu valley at the weekend. We need to know why it happened. The police must investigate. The press must investigate and report. The politicians must investigate and take action. And perhaps we should all look in the mirror and decide where our priorities lay.