NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – The Kenya Red Cross Society has suspended all operations in Baringo county and withdrawn all its staff and volunteers after residents allegedly harassed its staff, volunteers and looted relief food.
A statement from the humanitarian agency says the incident occurred on Friday at Kambi Samaki area, 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.
Secretary General Abbas Gullet says the confrontation ensued at a road block erected by youths who accused his staff for giving food support to neighbouring community despite presenting a waybill that clearly indicated the food was destined for Turkana county.
“It is with a heavy heart that the Kenya Red Cross Society announces the suspension of our activities in Baringo county, as we can no longer guarantee the safety of our 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 Gullet.
The Secretary General said the youth at a second road block approached one truck that had 8.5 tonnes of maize flour looting it clean.
“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.”
Gullet said Kenya Red Cross Society may only resume operations when the both the National government and the Baringo County government guarantees the safety of its staff, volunteers and resources.
“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,” continued Dr Gullet.
Baringo is affected by both the drought and conflict.
The Society 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.