, NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 13 – Contingents of freshly-graduated GSU officers trooped to Tana River in bus convoys on Thursday, a day after Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere outlined a ruthless security operation to flush out ethnic gangs responsible for the deaths of over 100 people in three weeks.
The more than 1,000 officers left their training school in Embakasi in new unmarked Chinese-made buses. The mean-looking officers clutched onto their AK-47 and G3 rifles as they stopped for meals at Mtito Andei, Voi and other convenient stop-overs on the Mombasa highway.
The young officers were trooping to Mpesa shops in Voi, after which they also visited a number of shops there. Some were seen buying DVDs from movie vendors in the town.
“We are going to Tana River to work, what else do you want to know?” one of their commanders said when he saw us prodding one of his juniors as he ordered for a packet of yoghurt from a shop in Mtito Andei.
He had earlier objected to us filming them as they disembarked from buses, but later allowed us on condition we don’t enter the bus–we sensed it was perhaps due to the arsenal they were carrying because even as the officers went to grab snacks and quick meals, we could see others strategically positioned around the bus guarding it.
This reporter counted seven buses heading to the Tana region that has turned out to be battlegrounds for two warring communities – the Pokomos and Orma.
More buses carrying the 1,311 GSU officers had left the Embakasi training school early Thursday.
Over the past three weeks, 107 people from both communities have been killed, prompting President Mwai kibaki to order security chiefs to crack the whip.
Iteere said the officers are under firm instructions to carry out a comprehensive disarmament exercise in the troubled region to rid off the communities of their arms.
“The officers will disarm them and collect even crude weapons,” the police chief said.
“My government will not tolerate this kind of attacks. We will not allow a small group to destabilise the country by fighting and killing one another,” Kibaki said Wednesday when he officiated the graduation of the newly recruited officers.
The president also ordered the arrest and prosecution of local leaders accused of fanning the ethnic violence, saying “no one will be spared.”
Area Member of Parliament Dadho Godhana became the first casualty when he was picked up by the police who bundled him in court to face incitement charges on Wednesday.
Later that evening State House announced that he had been dropped from the Cabinet where he held a deputy ministerial position in the Livestock Development docket.
The GSU officers who left Nairobi early Thursday were expected in Tana River later that night to commence a ruthless security operation which human rights activists have already warned is likely to violate rights of many, particularly vulnerable women.
Local and international human rights activists have previously accused Kenyan security forces–including the army of blatantly violating rights of innocent people during security operations in Mt Mt Elgon, Daadaab and other parts of the country–including Mathare slum where a security operations was carried out in 2003 to flush out the Mungiki, which was once notorious in operating extortion rings and beheading its victims.