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Tension in Mt Elgon as military withdraws

MT ELGON, September 2 – Tension is high in Mount Elgon district following the withdrawal of military officers conducting a crackdown on the ragtag Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) militia.

Leaflets were recovered in Kapkota and Cheptais divisions Tuesday, reportedly warning residents of dire consequences from the remnants of the SLDF.

Residents woke up Monday morning to find the military base at Kapkota empty, and a senior police officer in the district told Capital News that the military had officially withdrawn from the site.

Military Spokesman Bogita Ongeri was not immediately available for comment.

“They are no longer here. They left yesterday (Monday),” said the police officer who declined to be identified.

“We have seen the leaflets but we do not know the source yet. They appear to have been authored by remnants of the SLDF.”

He however, downplayed fears of any counter-attacks by SLDF members, saying the security situation in the region was under control.

“We have beefed up security. There is no cause to worry because we have intensified patrols here,” he said.

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The leaflets warned residents who cooperated with the military in flushing out SLDF members to ‘be prepared for further action’.

The military has been conducting a security operation in the region since March this year when they began flushing out the militiamen.

The Government responded to the SLDF atrocities by deploying a joint military and police operation.

The Operation, dubbed “Operation Okoa Maisha” was meant to curb the activities of the SLDF and maintain peace and security in the area.

Local and international human rights organisations have in the recent past released reports blaming the security forces of numerous violations, including crimes against humanity.

The latest of such reports was by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU), which said it had documented evidence on some of the violations committed by the military and the police.

“The joint military operation has been conducted under the veil of secrecy and has resulted in mass arrests, enforced disappearances and subsequent prosecution of almost one thousand persons,” the report signed by IMLU’s Executive Director Sam Mohochi stated.

Most of the persons arraigned in court have raised complaints of torture and exhibited injuries that remain to be accounted for by the state while many other residents who were not charged have complained of torture, cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment,” it adds.

Last month, the Commissioner of Police Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali released an investigative report absolving the security officers and instead accused the lobby groups of ‘serving partisan interests’.

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“Let it be known that no military officer or police was involved in any form of torture or any other forms of human rights violations. The reports released by these organisations are malicious,” he said.

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