, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 2 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday toured Kapedo, Turkana where he ordered residents and attackers to surrender arms stolen from slain police officers and their uniforms.
“The leaders must identify and bring out those involved,” he said at a meeting in Kapedo, “All those firearms and uniforms stolen from the officers must be returned.”
Speaking of unspecified consequences, the president—who was accompanied by Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku, Military chief Julius Karangi and Police chief David Kimaiyo—said “the government will not allow people to arm themselves against security agents.”
“As Government, we will take firm action against those who killed security officers in this area. These criminals must pay for their heinous act,” President Kenyatta said.
At least 20 police officers, mainly from the General Service Unit (GSU) and Administration Police (AP) were shot dead in an ambush as they pursued Pokot raiders in Kapedo.
Two civilians were also killed in the attack, seen as the worst on police officers since 2012 when 42 police officers were shot dead by bandits in Baragoi.
Elders from the Pokot community had requested to be given two weeks to expose the criminals but the President Kenyatta turned downed their request. He said they should turn them in immediately.
The ambush occurred during a security operation in Kapedo, in the arid and impoverished region of Lake Turkana that is prey to regular raids and score-settlings between rival communities.
The Pokot elders claimed that the Saturday attack – where close to 20 police officers are feared dead – was a result of mistaken identity. They argued that the officers undertaking a security in the area operation were mistaken for attackers from the neighbouring Turkana County.
A police officer who was among three who survived the incident recalled how they were ambushed while on a truck headed to Kapedo.
“We were headed to the area, without knowing that they [attackers] had laid an ambush, suddenly we heard gun shots directed at our lorry and we quickly jumped out,” Eric Mugendi who spoke to reporters from his hospital bed in Nakuru said, “it happened so fast and everyone was running in different directions while shooting.”
“I don’t know how I survived. It was by God’s grace,” he said, “most of my colleagues died in the attack, I am so lucky to be among the ones alive.”
“It was really bad, it is God who saved us,” he said, “the attackers were hiding in the forests, and they surrounded our lorry and all of them were now shooting.”
Mugendi was among three police officers who survived and taken to the Rift Valley General Hospital, but were later transferred to Nairobi for specialized treatment for gunshot wounds sustained in the attack.
Two other officers who survived the attack gave their names as Livingstone Karuga aged 30 and Francis Maathai who underwent a successful operation for the removal of a bullet lodged in his body.
Bodies of the officers who were killed in the ambush were flown to Nairobi late Sunday, but police said most of the families affected were yet to be informed of their deaths.